Walk Your Way to Lower Blood Pressure

You hit the snooze button one too many times this morning, got handed a new project at 4:45 p.m. or used up your lunch break buying a gift for a friend. No matter the reason, many people have a hard time finding a solid 30-minute window to exercise.

That’s the number of minutes experts recommend we get our hearts pumping each day in order to maintain our overall health. [1]

Here’s the good news: It turns out that quick, 10-minute workouts sprinkled throughout your day may be even more beneficial for your heart health than one half-hour sweat fest. In studying the health effects of shorter workout sessions, researchers from Arizona State University assigned one group three 10-minute walks a day and another group a single 30-minute walk. They found that doing multiple mini-sessions is a smarter strategy for blood pressure control: The 10-minute-at-a-time exercisers not only reduced their systolic blood pressure (that’s the top number) during the day and evening (similar to the 30-minute group) but also continued to benefit from a lower BP the following day. [1]


Why do these shorter strolls yield a longer-lasting benefit? Walking -- even for a short period -- lowers blood pressure after each bout, so you wind up with a more pronounced reduction by walking three times each day compared with just one. To reap the greatest decrease, walk at a quick pace. That means you should be able to keep up one end of a conversation with some moderate huffing and puffing. If you haven’t exercised before or it’s been a while, talk to your doctor before starting a new fitness routine.[2]


Here are some ideas for fitting in those 10-minute walking breaks throughout your day:

  • During work: Suggest a walk-and-talk meeting to discuss a project(chances are your co-workers could use an excuse to break away from their desks too).
  • On your lunch break: You have got to stop to eat at some point, so why not brown-bag it to save time at the lunch counter? Then use those 10 minutes you save by walking around the building or up the stairwell.
  • Before your coffee date: Plan to arrive early so you can do a few laps around the block.
  • After work but before dinner: Walk while the chicken is in the oven.
  • When it’s time to call your parents or kids at college: Don your ear buds, pocket your cell phone and hit the sidewalk.
  • In the parking lot: Yes, it may sound cliché, but parking a little bit out of the way counts too!

Note: These tips are most beneficial when combined with a heart-healthy diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol and rich in fruits, vegetables and grain products that contain some types of dietary fiber. [3, 4]


Sources:

1. Bhammar DMAngadi SSGaesser GA.

Effects of fractionized and continuous exercise on 24-h ambulatory blood pressure.

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012 Dec;44(12):2270-6.

2. American Heart Association: Getting Started: Tips for Long-term Success

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/PhysicalActivity/StartWalking/Getting-Started---Tips-for-Long-term-Success_UCM_307979_Article.jsp

3. World Health Organization: Diet and Physical Activity: A Public Health Priority

http://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/en/

4. Mayo Clinic: Eating and Exercise:

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/exercise/HQ00594_D/METHOD=print 
by the Publishers of Prevention