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Mar 14, 2019

Exercise Plus Less Sitting Improves Blood Pressure in Obese Adults

Breaking up sitting with just three minutes of activity has immediate heart-health benefits, finds Australian study.

Breaking up sitting with just three minutes of activity may boost heart health, based on a recent study that found walking plus frequent breaks from sitting lowers blood pressure in overweight and obese adults. Findings were published in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension, and highlight the importance of increasing physical activity and reducing sedentary time to improve heart health.

Conducted at two sites in Australia, this study looked at the immediate effects of exercise and sedentary time on blood pressure. The goal was to see whether exercise alone is enough to lower blood pressure, or if the benefits are even greater when combined with reducing sedentary time.

Sedentary time is time spent sitting or laying down. Too much sitting time has been linked to negative health effects, even in adults who exercise. Therefore, combatting both inactivity and sitting time has become increasingly important to promote better health.

To learn more, researchers tested the effects of three different activities in inactive Australian adults. The study included 67 participants with an average age of 67, all of who were overweight or obese. All participants completed a total of three sessions, with about a week in between each visit.

In the first scenario, participants spent eight hours sitting while researchers monitored their blood pressure and other markers of health. This session was used as a reference point to compare with higher levels of activity.

In second and third visits, participants started with one hour of sitting time and then walked for 30 minutes on a treadmill. However, one session followed with 6.5 hours of sitting, while the third session involved walking on the treadmill for three minutes every half hour.

After analysis, researchers found that exercise helped significantly reduce participants average blood pressure over the 8-hour period compared to sitting only. However, reductions in blood pressure were even greater when exercise was combined with short walking breaks in between sitting.

Interestingly, authors note that most of these added benefits were observed in women.

Based on findings, authors conclude that 30 minutes of walking helps reduce blood pressure in sedentary, overweight and obese adults. They also note that breaking up sitting time is particularly beneficial in women, who experienced the greatest reductions in blood pressure.

Of course, this study only looked at the immediate effects of exercise and sedentary time on blood pressure over an 8-hour period. However, other studies also suggest that increasing physical activity while reducing sedentary time is an important combination.

Experts encourage future research to look at the long-term impact of these healthy habits on heart health.

Questions for You to Consider

  • How much exercise do I need?
  • Regular physical activity is important for both children and adults. According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans:

    • Children and adolescents should get 60 minutes or more of physical activity daily.
    • Optimum exercise levels for adults includes:
      • 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise (or a combination of the two) each week.
      • Activity spread across the week with periods of aerobic exercise of at least 10 minutes at a time.
      • Muscle strengthening activities 2 or more days a week.
  • What are the benefits of physical activity?
  • Regular physical activity has a wealth of benefits, such as reducing risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, depression, cancer and heart disease. Exercise can also increase energy, improve mood, and promote better sleep. Regular physical activity is a key component of a healthy lifestyle.

Infographic: High Blood Pressure

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