Adding 3,000 steps a day can reduce high blood pressure.

Adding 3,000 steps a day can reduce high blood pressure.

The Power of Extra Steps: Lower Blood Pressure for Older Adults

Exercise

Living a long, healthy life is everyone’s goal. However, as we age, certain health issues become more prevalent, such as high blood pressure. About 80% of older adults in the United States have hypertension, a condition that can increase the risk of heart failure, heart attacks, and strokes. But fear not – recent research suggests that a simple lifestyle intervention can significantly lower blood pressure for older adults.

Linda Pescatello, professor of kinesiology at the University of Connecticut, explains, “We’ll all get high blood pressure if we live long enough, at least in this country. That’s how prevalent it is.” Pescatello has been studying the impact of exercise on blood pressure and wanted to investigate whether increasing walking, which is popular among older adults, could have similar effects.

Co-author Duck-Chul Lee, a professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University, explains the appeal of walking as a form of exercise for this age group, saying, “It’s easy to do, they don’t need any equipment, they can do it anywhere at almost any time.” With these factors in mind, the researchers set out to explore the effects of adding 3,000 extra steps to the daily routine of sedentary adults aged 68 to 78 who typically walked about 4,000 steps per day.

To measure the participants’ progress, they received kits containing pedometers, blood pressure monitors, and step diaries. After the intervention, which aimed to increase their daily steps to 7,000 in line with the recommendations of the American College of Sports Medicine, the results were promising. On average, the participants’ systolic and diastolic blood pressure decreased by 7 and 4 points, respectively.

These reductions in blood pressure are equivalent to the effects of certain medications for hypertension. Additionally, other studies have suggested that such decreases in blood pressure correspond to an 11% reduction in the risk of premature death from all causes, a 16% reduction in heart-related causes, an 18% lower risk of heart disease, and a 36% lower risk of stroke.

First author Elizabeth Lefferts, from the Department of Kinesiology at Iowa State, expresses her excitement about the findings, stating, “It’s exciting that a simple lifestyle intervention can be just as effective as structured exercise and some medications.” The results also suggest that combining exercise with medication can bolster the effects of blood pressure medication alone, highlighting the value of exercise as an anti-hypertensive therapy.

Interestingly, the speed of walking or the duration of each walk did not matter as much as the total number of steps taken. Pescatello explains, “We saw that the volume of physical activity is what’s really important here, not the intensity. Using the volume as a target, whatever fits in and whatever works conveys health benefits.”

The researchers plan to use these findings to launch a larger clinical trial. Understanding the potential of increasing daily steps to lower blood pressure in older adults is a major step forward in the field of health and exercise.

So, why not lace up your walking shoes and take the first step towards a healthier future? Start adding those extra steps to your daily routine, and you’ll be on your way to healthier blood pressure and a longer, more vibrant life.

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