Thirty minutes of morning exercise lowers blood pressure for the rest of the day among older men and women who are overweight or obese. And women who take brief, frequent breaks from sitting throughout the day can enhance the blood pressure benefits of morning exercise even more, according to new research published in the American Heart Association's journal Hypertension.
In a study of men and women, age 55 to 80, all of whom were overweight or obese, researchers wanted to find out whether the beneficial effect of morning exercise on blood pressure was negated by long periods of sitting throughout the rest of the day. They also wanted to learn whether the benefit of morning exercise would be enhanced by taking frequent, short breaks from sitting.
The researchers found that average blood pressure, especially systolic blood pressure, was reduced among both men and women who took part in morning exercise, compared to when they did not exercise. There was further benefit -- a significant reduction in average systolic blood pressure -- for women when they combined morning exercise with frequent breaks from sitting throughout the day. For men, there was no additional blood pressure benefit to taking frequent breaks from sitting.
Systolic blood pressure is the first of two numbers when blood pressure is taken. It measures pressure in blood vessels when your heart beats. Diastolic blood pressure is the second number, which measures pressure between beats. Wheeler says that over age 50, higher systolic blood pressure is more predictive of cardiovascular events than diastolic blood pressure.
The American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology hypertension guidelines define high blood pressure as 130/80 and above.
"For both men and women, the magnitude of reduction in average systolic blood pressure following exercise and breaks in sitting, approached what might be expected from antihypertensive medication
in this population to reduce the risk of death from heart disease and stroke. However, this reduction was greater for women." said Wheeler.