Cumulative activity can lower blood pressure

Adults with hypertension may be able to lower their blood pressure by raking the yard, going for a brisk walk and otherwise adding bouts of moderate physical activity to their daily routine, new study findings suggest.

“Lifestyle physical activity can reduce blood pressure in adults with high blood pressure,” said study author Dr. Jaume Padilla, at Indiana University in Bloomington.

In fact, “the accumulation of short physical activity bouts can be as effective in reducing blood pressure as structured cardiovascular exercise,” the researcher added.

Currently, many adults with hypertension are advised to engage in moderate physical activity on most days of the week to lower their high blood pressure, as are those with Prehypertension in order to prevent progression to hypertension. There is only a small amount of scientific evidence to support such recommendations, however.

To add to that body of research, Padilla and colleagues studied eight adults with normal blood pressure, 10 adults with Prehypertension, and 10 adults with hypertension. Prehypertension is defined as a systolic blood pressure (the upper reading) between 120 and140 or diastolic pressure (lower reading) between 80 and 90, while hypertension is defined as blood pressure above 140/90.

A blood pressure level of 140/90 mmHg or higher is considered high. About two-thirds of people over age 65 have high blood pressure. If your blood pressure is between 120/80 mmHg and 139/89 mmHg, then you have prehypertension. This means that you don’t have high blood pressure now but are likely to develop it in the future. You can take steps to prevent high blood pressure by adopting a healthy lifestyle.

The researchers instructed the participants to add physical activity, such as raking, brisk walking or other home and gardening activities, to their daily routine, and measured the study participants’ accumulated activity over a 12-hour period via an accelerometer. Afterwards, the team monitored the study participants’ blood pressure over the next 12 hours.

The subjects also participated in a day of normal daily activities, without engaging in any physical activity, exercise or sports, and underwent blood pressure monitoring during a similar 12-hour period.

Overall, the added physical activity reduced systolic blood pressure by 6.6 points on average among those with prehypertension and by 12.9 points among adults with hypertension, the researchers report in the August issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. Further, their blood pressures remained low for up to eight hours after the physical activity, the report indicates.

“Finding a blood pressure reduction after a single day of physical activity is advantageous for the inactive patient, considering the immediate results may be motivating to continue incorporating lifestyle physical activity into their daily routine,” the authors write.

As the researchers expected, the effect was not seen among adults with normal blood pressures.

Padilla and colleagues found that the blood pressure-lowering effect of physical activity was not due to the amount of energy expended during the accumulated physical activity. “The mechanisms of blood pressure reduction induced by exercise/physical activity are not well understood,” Padilla told. “More investigation is needed in this direction.”

Based on the findings, however, Padilla offered this advice to adults with borderline or high blood pressure: “Add physical activity throughout the day, activities such as walking the dog, climbing stairs instead of using the elevator, cleaning the house (and) mowing the lawn.”

Which is not to say that this will necessarily do away with the need for anti-hypertensive drug treatment. “Patients with hypertension may still need medication,” Padilla said. “However, dose and frequency may be decreased.”

SOURCE: Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, August 2005.

Provided by ArmMed Media
Revision date: July 7, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD