Low-intensity walking as mild medication for pressure control in prehypertensive and hypertensive subjects: how far shall we wander?
Successful prevention and treatment of hypertension depend on the appropriate combination of antihypertensive drug therapy and nondrug lifestyle modiﬁcation. While most hypertension guidelines recommend moderate- to high-intensity exercise, we decided to explore a mild yet effective type of exercise to add to hypertension management, especially in populations with complications or frailty. After comparing the short-term cardiovascular effects of low-speed walking versus high-speed walking for 3 kilometers (km) (3 km/h versus 6 km/h) in young, healthy volunteers, we delivered low-speed walking (low-intensity walking, 2.5 metabolic equivalents of task, METs) as exercise therapy in 42 prehypertensive and 43 hypertensive subjects. We found that one session of 3 km low-intensity walking exerted a transient pressure-lowering effect as well as a mild negative chronotropic effect on heart rate in both the prehypertensive and hypertensive subjects; these short-term beneﬁts on blood pressure and heart rate were accompanied by a brief increase in urine β-endorphin output. Then we prescribed regular low-intensity walking with a target exercise dose (exercise volume) of 500–1000 METs·min/week (50–60 min/day and 5–7 times/week) in hypertensive subjects in addition to their daily activities. Regular low-intensity walking also showed mild but signiﬁcant blood pressure-lowering and heart rate-reducing effects in 7 hypertensive subjects within two months. It is hypothesized that regular low-intensity exercise of the necessary dose could be taken as a pragmatic and supplementary medication for hypertension management.Keywords: hypertension; prehypertension; exercise medication; low-intensity walking; metabolic equivalent of task; blood pressure; heart rate; urine β-endorphin