Get Moving for Better Health

Blood pressure, blood sugar were better in patients who reported exercising

(RxWiki News) Keep on moving — or start, if you haven't already. Even a little exercise may keep your blood pressure and blood sugar at normal levels.

Exercise may lower both high blood pressure and high blood sugar, a new Kaiser Permanente study found.

The authors of this study said that even patients who didn't exercise very much had a lower risk of heart disease than patients who did not exercise at all.

"Although ... we cannot presume causality between the level of physical activity and health status based on these data, combining our findings with results from intervention studies suggest that exercise can play an integral part in moderating/lowering blood sugar and blood pressure, and ultimately a patient's [heart] health," said Deborah R. Young, PhD, in a press release.

Dr. Young, of the Kaiser Permanente Department of Research & Evaluation in Pasadena, CA, led this study.

Dr. Young and colleagues studied data on 622,897 Kaiser Permanente Southern California adult members. These patients’ average age was 49.

Although generally healthy, most of the patients were overweight. About 12 percent of the patients smoked. They had at least three doctor visits during the two-year study period.

The research team excluded people who had major health issues and those who took medications for blood pressure or blood glucose control.

As part of the Exercise as a Vital Sign (EVS) program, medical staff routinely ask patients about their exercise habits. People who reported 150 minutes of moderate to strenuous exercise each week were classed as regularly active. Those who reported any exercise of less than 150 minutes per week were classed as irregularly active. Patients who did not exercise were classed as inactive.

Whether male or female, active and irregularly active patients had lower diastolic blood pressure (bottom number) and fasting blood sugar levels than inactive patients. Active and irregularly active women also had lower systolic blood pressure (top number) readings than inactive patients.

Systolic blood pressure is the pressure in the artery when the heart muscle contracts. Diastolic blood pressure is the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between beats.

Normal blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association, is around 120 over 80. High blood pressure increases the risk of heart disease, kidney disease and stroke.

Dr. Young’s team noted that, although the differences were small, even minor reductions in blood pressure and blood glucose can decrease the risk of chronic disease in a population. For instance, the 3 percent improvement in fasting blood sugars these researchers for those who exercised could decrease these patients' risk of diabetes by 58 percent, Dr. Young and team noted.

These researchers noted that women in this study derived greater benefits from consistent and irregular exercise than the men in the study. The team was not able to explain why that was the case.

Dr. Young’s group noted in the study that “If healthcare providers would routinely assess the physical activity of their patients and refer the physically inactive to effective physical activity programs, it may reduce the burden of future chronic diseases.”

This study was published Dec. 18 in Preventing Chronic Disease.

The Southern California Permanente Medical Group funded this research. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
December 18, 2014