Does Walking Lower Blood Pressure? Here’s What a Cardiologist Says

Updated: Apr. 29, 2024

Many of us are looking for ways to reduce our blood pressure—but do you need to try intense workouts and complicated diets, or could a regular walking routine be the heart healthy solution you need?

High blood pressure, or hypertension, rightly earns the nickname “the silent killer” as it often arrives without any noticeable symptoms. The World Health Organization reported in 2023 that an estimated 1.28 billion adults between the ages of 30 and 79 worldwide are affected by it. Over time, high blood pressure can quietly cause damage, raising the risk of serious conditions like heart attacks, diabetes, and strokes. Certain meaningful lifestyle changes, such as healthy diet choices or regular exercise, can help manage the condition. The good news is that you don’t need to engage in extremely intense workouts to see remarkable results, though; something as simple as a consistent walking routine can yield excellent results in lowering blood pressure.

Ahead, experts weigh in on how walking can lower blood pressure, with tips to make your walking routine even more beneficial for your heart health.

How walking impacts blood pressure

Walking is such a routine part of our day that you may overlook its potential as a powerful form of exercise. “Walking helps make your heart more efficient,” Cleveland Clinic cardiologist Tamanna Singh, MD, explains on the institution’s blog. “As you’re improving your fitness, your heart actually becomes more effective with each heart pump that it provides for that type of exercise.” This improvement in heart efficiency leads to a stronger heart, which can pump more blood with less effort. The outcome? A reduction in the pressure against your blood vessels, ultimately leading to lower blood pressure.

Supporting this, a comprehensive review in 2021 involving 5,763 individuals revealed that engaging in a regular walking routine could significantly reduce systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) by 4.11 millimeters of mercury (mmHg), diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) by 1.79 mmHg, and resting heart rate by 2.76 beats per minute. The regimen involved walking three to five times per week at moderate intensity for 20 to 40 minutes, accumulating to at least 150 minutes of activity weekly.

To help put these findings into context, the American Heart Association (AHA) offers these benchmarks for understanding blood pressure levels:

  • Normal blood pressure: Less than 120/80 mmHg
  • Elevated blood pressure: 120-129/less than 80 mmHg
  • Hypertension: 130/80 mmHg or higher
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure): Below 90/60 mmHg

The AHA also advises at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity weekly, or a mix of both spread throughout the week.

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How long does it take for walking to lower blood pressure?

The time frame for reducing blood pressure from walking can vary based on individual health factors, the intensity of the exercise, and consistency. Typically, it can take one to three months of regular exercise such as walking to observe a noticeable decrease in blood pressure, with the benefits enduring only as long as the exercise is continued. Research has also shown that splitting exercise into shorter sessions throughout the day, such as three 10-minute walks, may better manage high blood pressure than a single 30-minute session.

Before beginning a walking routine or any exercise regimen, it’s wise to measure your blood pressure with a blood pressure cuff to monitor your progress and adjust as needed. Exercise caution with smartwatch blood pressure monitors, as they may not always provide accurate readings.

For optimal results, adding specific strategies to your walking can help. Natural arm swinging increases the intensity, and keeping a brisk pace (no less than 2.5 miles per hour) can maximize health perks without overexerting.

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What is the best exercise to lower blood pressure?

Walking is a reliable method of lowering blood pressure, but it’s just one option among many aerobic exercises that are good for heart health. This group also includes activities like cycling, hiking, swimming, jogging, and even dancing, with the addition of strength training two to three times a week.

The key is to pick an exercise that suits your lifestyle, preferences, and physical abilities so you stay consistent and enjoy your workouts. Walking is often the go-to choice for its ease and low injury risk.

Ready to start walking to lower blood pressure? Harvard Health suggests these tips for refining your technique:

  • Stand tall to improve breathing and reduce backaches.
  • Keep your gaze ahead, about 10 to 20 feet in front of you, to avoid stress on your neck and upper back.
  • Position shoulders back, down, and relaxed, allowing for a freer arm swing.
  • Swing your arms freely from your shoulders in a forward and back motion without crossing your body or going above your chest.
  • Maintain a neutral pelvis, keeping abs tight without overarching or tucking.
  • Step lightly, rolling from heel to toe to minimize joint impact and promote a smooth stride.

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