Brisk Walking Lowers Blood Pressure, Increases Fitness In Obese
If walking seems too simple to be an effective fitness method, think again: taking a stroll is an easy way to lower pressure and for the obese to increase aerobic fitness, according to three researchers who presented findings today at the 55th Annual Meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine.
A study of 14 morbidly obese patients was designed to determine if brisk walking alone was sufficient to serve as an aerobic training stimulus, increasing heart rate to at least 70 percent of maximum. Patients were asked to determine their own brisk walking pace, and walked for one mile. All 14 achieved at least 70 percent of maximum heart rate.
"Obese patients have more body mass to move, causing the heart and cardiovascular system to have to work harder than a normal-weight person's would," Thomas Spring, M.S., said. "Walking is a great way for the overweight and obese to begin an exercise program, because it can be done with little instruction or equipment and is low in cost."
Benefits of brisk walking also extend to people at-risk for high blood pressure. A British study looked at borderline hypertensive middle-aged men after they walked at various intensities and durations, to determine which type of walking reduced blood pressure the most.
Andrew Scott found that walking 30 minutes at 50 percent effort was most effective, reducing blood pressure for at least four hours.
"Our study found that walking for longer than 30 minutes or at a higher intensity had no additional effects on lowering blood pressure," Andrew Scott, M.S., said. "Those needing to lose weight may want to exercise for a longer period of time, but our findings show that ACSM's recommendations have significant health benefits."
ACSM recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five days per week for healthy adults. The guidelines also state that physical activity can be broken up into 10-minute bouts and be as effective as one longer session, a recommendation confirmed by another study on the effects of brisk walking on hypertension.
The Korean study measured decreases in blood pressure in 23 hypertensive men following 40-minute brisk walking sessions and four, 10-minute brisk walking bouts. Blood pressure was lowered by similar amounts after each type of exercise session.
"Accumulating brisk, 10-minute walks appears to be very effective for lowering blood pressure," said Saejong Park, Ph.D., lead author. "Those with time crunches and busy schedules can fit bits of exercise in throughout the day to reap health benefits."