Feb. 20 (UPI) -- Just 30 minutes of walking in the morning can lower blood pressure for overweight or obese people between ages 55 and 80, a new study says.
And when women add frequent breaks from sitting during the day to this morning exercise routine, they increase the health benefits, according to a study published Wednesday in Hypertension.
"We conducted this study because separate lines of inquiry have determined that a bout of exercise can acutely lower blood pressure, and more recently that prolonged sitting can increase blood pressure over the space of a day," Michael Wheeler, a researcher at The Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute and a study author, told UPI.
The morning walks had a particularly strong effect on lowering systolic blood pressure, the top number in the blood pressure reading. Once a person hits 50, the top number is more predictive of whether they will have a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular episode.
"We wanted to know whether the blood pressure lowering effects of an exercise bout would be diminished by a subsequent period of prolonged sitting or enhanced by a subsequent period of sitting that is regularly interrupted with short walking breaks," Wheeler said.
Wheeler said exercise combined with the breaks from sitting throughout the day dropped systolic blood pressure the same way as taking blood pressure medicine would. The reduction was especially strong for women.
The researchers were unsure why women got better health outcomes from the exercise. They suspect the fact that men and women have different adrenaline levels when exercising might affect the participant's blood pressure readings.
"While isolating the effects of one behavior or another is a useful approach to understanding the impact of that behavior, a logical next step would be to investigate the combined effects of these behaviors," Wheeler said. "This seemed especially important to us because in the space of a day a person can both attain the recommended daily amount of exercise and also accumulate high amounts of sitting."
The researchers hope future studies will do a deeper dive into the effects that exercise and shortened sitting time have on lowering blood pressure.
"We hope to highlight the idea that in the real world behaviors do not exist in isolation. We hope to see future studies considering the combined effects of behaviors to gain another level of insight on their impact in society," Wheeler said. "Also, we hope that this line of inquiry may be useful in the future design of exercise interventions seeking to optimize blood pressure targets."