Walking 3,000 Steps Helps Lower Blood Pressure

We know that moving more helps keep older adults physically fit and able to live independently.  A brisk daily walk can not only help seniors stay trim and mobile but going outdoors for exercise, fresh air and a dose of natural sunlight can boost mood and help prevent depression.  A new study also finds that adding 3,000 steps on 5 days of the week improves blood pressure readings among sedentary older adults with hypertension. 

According to a recent CBC News report, 80 percent of older Americans have high blood pressure.   Researchers at Iowa State University and the University of Connecticut found that walking daily improved both systolic (upper number) and diastolic (lower number) blood pressure, whether or not participants were taking blood pressure medication or not. 

Taking more steps each day is an easy and cost-effective lifestyle habit that is accessible for all seniors.  Whether you walk in your neighbourhood, or indoors at the mall in cold weather, enlisting a friend to walk with you can help you stay accountable and boost motivation.  Walking with a partner also encourages older adults to socialize more and push themselves a little further each day. 

The study followed 21 sedentary older adults over a period of 20 weeks to discover if lifestyle walking was an effective intervention for blood pressure control among seniors with hypertension.  Although a larger scale, randomized and controlled study is needed, the findings are encouraging. 

Talk first with your doctor before starting any new exercise program.  A regular walking program can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, and obesity.  According to the American College of Sports Medicine, a walking program requires only a pair of well-fitting walking shoes with a flexible sole that provides good arch support and cushions the heel.  Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing appropriate for the weather, sunglasses and sunscreen.   If you are walking at dusk, dawn, or evening, be sure to wear light-coloured, reflective clothing to be visible to others. 

For more tips on starting a walking program, visit Berkeley University Health Services Wellness and Preventive Health.