Walking 3,000 additional steps reduces blood pressure in older people

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A new study, including efforts from Linda Pescatello, a distinguished professor of kinesiology at UConn, has highlighted the significant benefits of adding just 3,000 steps per day to reduce high blood pressure among older adults.

This research, conducted in collaboration with Elizabeth Lefferts, Duck-chun Lee, and others at Iowa State University, was recently published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Development and Disease.

Prevalence of Hypertension in Older Adults

The study addresses the widespread issue of hypertension in older adults in the U.S., with an estimated 80% being affected. Hypertension is a key risk factor for serious conditions like heart failure, heart attacks, and strokes.

Focusing on sedentary older adults aged between 68 and 78, the study aimed to determine if a moderate increase in daily walking could lower blood pressure in hypertensive individuals.

The participants, who initially walked about 4,000 steps per day, were encouraged to increase their walking by 3,000 steps, aligning with the American College of Sports Medicine’s recommendation of 7,000 daily steps.

Remote Study Execution During COVID-19

Conducted during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the study employed remote methods, including sending participants kits with pedometers, blood pressure monitors, and step diaries to track their walking.

The increase in daily steps led to notable reductions in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, averaging decreases of seven and four points, respectively. These reductions are associated with significant decreases in mortality risk, heart disease, and stroke.

Comparison to Anti-hypertensive Medications

The blood pressure reductions observed in the study were comparable to those seen with anti-hypertensive medications.

This was particularly notable in participants who were already on blood pressure medication, as they also experienced improvements, underscoring the additive benefits of exercise with medication.

Key Insights: Volume Over Intensity

An important finding of the study was that the total volume of physical activity, rather than intensity, was crucial for health benefits. Walking speed and continuity were less important than simply increasing the total number of steps.

This pilot study sets the stage for a larger clinical trial. The researchers aim to further validate these findings and reinforce the role of simple lifestyle interventions, like walking, in managing hypertension effectively.

In summary, this study presents a straightforward and accessible strategy for older adults to manage high blood pressure.

By simply increasing their daily walking steps, they can achieve significant health benefits, potentially reducing the need for medication and improving overall cardiovascular health.

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The research findings can be found in the Journal of Cardiovascular Development and Disease.

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