Challenge Day 3

Step Up and Get Exercise

Just as lifting weights can strengthen your biceps, regular exercise can strengthen your heart. When your heart is strong, it pumps more blood with less effort. That’s why physical activity is key to lowering your blood pressure. So, get up; it’s time to move.

We’ve all heard the goal is to walk at least 10,000 steps per day, but where does that number come from, and why does it matter when it comes to your blood pressure?

Some say that 10,000 is an arbitrary step count chosen in the 1960s when a Japanese company marketed a pedometer with a name that meant “10,000 step meter.” The Japanese character for “10,000” resembles someone walking or running, which is one theory about why 10,000 steps might have been the original desired daily step goal.

No matter the step count’s origin, numerous studies show that 10,000 steps a day can help lower your blood pressure and may help you live longer by decreasing your risk for heart disease.

And, if 10,000 steps sounds daunting, there’s nothing wrong with starting small and working your way up. Some research indicates that just 5,000 steps a day can improve heart health, especially for those who currently lead a mostly sedentary lifestyle.

If you don’t want to count steps, just block time for a daily walk. A 2022 study in American Family Physician found walking just over 20 minutes per day for 15 weeks lowered patients’ systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure and resting heart rate. In another study, researchers found that people who kept their systolic blood pressure (the top number) under 120 had a 43% lower risk of death due to cardiovascular disease.

So, whether you aim for 10,000 steps or a 20 to 30-minute walk each day, it’s time to step up and reduce your blood pressure with some physical activity. Walking can also help you lose weight, strengthen bones and muscles, and increase your energy level.

Today’s Challenge

By the end of the month, aim to walk an average of at least 20 to 30 minutes per day. This week, commit to a 10-minute walk every day and gradually add three to four more minutes of walking time each week. Or, if you prefer to count steps, see how far you can go in 20 minutes and then add 500 more steps every couple of days until you reach your goal.