Easy steps lower blood pressure: Start walking!

Walking is a great way to lower your blood pressure.

It doesn’t cost anything. You don’t need a prescription. Walking doesn’t require any special equipment besides comfortable shoes. And you don’t have to practice or learn a new skill.

Yet walking 30 minutes a day at least five times a week can help to reduce our blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association.

In fact, a brisk walk is as beneficial as running, says a new study conducted at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Life Science Division in Berkeley, Calif.

Researchers analyzed 33,060 runners in the National Runners’ Health Study and 15,045 walkers in the National Walkers’ Health Study over a six-year period. They concluded that the same energy used for moderate-intensity walking and vigorous-intensity running resulted in similar reductions in risk for hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, and possibly coronary heart disease.

Walking is more effective when we walk on a regular basis, so don’t save your walks just for the weekend. Five 30-minute walks will do you more good than two 75-minute walks, even though both scenarios add up to 150 minutes of exercise.

If you don’t have a half-hour chunk of time to devote to walking, you can break up your walking into more manageable amounts, such as 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes at lunch, and 10 minutes after work. You also can incorporate walking into your day by parking your car further away from the place where you work, the store where you shop, and so on.

I have integrated walking into my work day. Each hour, I get up from my desk and walk around the building for five minutes. I make my own trail. It truly is the pause that refreshes.

Don’t let bad weather or a lack of equipment keep you from walking. If you don’t have a treadmill or a gym membership, find a place to walk indoors. For example, shopping malls open early to give people the opportunity to walk in a safe, climate-controlled environment.

Set yourself up for success by arranging to walk with others. If you have a buddy you are much less likely to skip your walk.

You can mix up walking with other activities, such as climbing stairs. Make certain that you breathe properly when you are walking or climbing. Don’t hold your breath.

We recommend that you check with your doctor before starting your walking routine. But don’t be deterred from taking that step, even if you’re overweight or haven’t exercised in the past. Your doctor will help you develop a blood pressure lowering plan that may include walking and/or medication.

Remember, people who are sedentary have a tendency to gain weight, which increases their risk of hypertension, as well as diabetes, heart disease.

Start with a brief walk and work your way up. As you lose weight you will gain more energy because you aren’t carrying around those extra pounds.

Walking also is a great stress buster. And reducing stress is a very good thing, especially for folks who have hypertension.