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A short walk could literally change your life — here’s why

The sun is out, the sky is blue and you’re indoors — the thought of going for a walk is both a source of guilt and an uphill battle from the cosy couch.

<p>If you’ve thought about going for a walk today and enjoying the nice weather, scientists would encourage you to follow through with the sunny stroll. [Source: Shutterstock]</p>

If you’ve thought about going for a walk today and enjoying the nice weather, scientists would encourage you to follow through with the sunny stroll. [Source: Shutterstock]

Key points:

  • Healthy adults over the age of 65 averaged 2,000 – 9,000 steps of daily walking
  • An added 3,000 steps per day managed to reduce research participants’ systolic and diastolic blood pressure by an average of seven and four points
  • A Cambridge University study found that regular physical activity decreased the risk of depression by 14 percent

New research has revealed just how vital an added walk can be for the health and well-being of older adults, with almost four out of five Australians living with hypertension by the age of 75 years.

A study published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Development and Disease found that adding a relatively minimal amount of movement, about 3,000 steps per day, can significantly reduce high blood pressure in older adults.

Researchers assessed a range of adults between the ages of 68 and 78 who walked an average of about 4,000 steps per day before the study. However, when they were placed on a 7,000-step regimen, participants’ blood pressure reduced to levels on par with anti-hypertensive medications.

Linda Pescatello, an internationally renowned distinguished professor of kinesiology, worked with Elizabeth Lefferts, the lead author of the paper, Duck-chun Lee, and others in Lee’s lab at Iowa State University.

“It’s easy to do, they don’t need any equipment, they can do it anywhere at almost any time,” Lee said.

“3,000 steps is large enough but not too challenging to achieve for health benefits.”

Despite eight out of 23 participants being on anti-hypertensive meds, those participants still recorded improved systolic blood pressure due to increased physical activity.

Prof Pescatello said that she had worked with researchers to uncover that exercise bolsters the effects of blood pressure medication in a previous study.

“It just speaks to the value of exercise as anti-hypertensive therapy,” she said.

“It’s not to negate the effects of medication at all, but it’s part of the treatment arsenal.”

In addition to the cardiovascular benefits of daily physical activity, researchers at Cambridge University have recently published the results of a widescale study on how exercise can impact the risk of depression.

According to the World Health Organisation, around one in 20 adults experiences depression.

By examining data from almost 290,000 people — of whom 13,000 had depression — followed over a nine-year period, an international team of analysts discovered that regular physical activity decreased the risk of depression by 14 percent.

Engaging in regular physical activity was a stronger indicator of depression than having a nutritious diet, which reduced the risk by six percent and moderate alcohol consumption, which reduced the risk by 11 percent.

Dr Christelle Langley from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge said that there’s often more to a ‘healthy lifestyle’ than simply physical well-being.

“We’re used to thinking of a healthy lifestyle as being important to our physical health, but it’s just as important for our mental health,” she said.

“It’s good for our brain health and cognition, but also indirectly by promoting a healthier immune system and better metabolism.”

When was the last time that you went for a good walk? Let the team at Talking Aged Care know! Remember to get out there and enjoy the sunshine and subscribe to our newsletter to read more!

 

If you or someone you love is at risk of a mental health crisis, please refer to the following resources:

 

Beyond Blue — 1300 22 4636

Dementia Support Australia — 1800 699 799

Mental Health Emergency — 13 14 65

Lifeline — 13 11 14

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