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Sit less and feel better

AFP – A recent American study suggests that reducing sedentary behaviour and increasing movement could be beneficial for older adults in lowering their blood pressure.

This approach may prove as effective as ramping up physical activity and could be more feasible for many seniors to adopt into their routines. Researchers from Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute (KPWHRI) conducted a new study revealing that cutting down on daily sitting time by at least 30 minutes may lead to improved blood pressure among senior citizens.

These findings, published in the journal Nutrition, Obesity, and Exercise, align with previous research demonstrating the benefits of increased exercise.

To reach this conclusion, the researchers followed 283 overweight or obese people aged 60 to 89 for six months, who reported sitting for more than six hours a day.

At the start of the study, over half had high blood pressure, over a quarter had diabetes, and almost two-thirds were taking at least one blood pressure-lowering medication.

The researchers divided the participants into two groups.

The first – the intervention group – was monitored by a sports coach, who gave them advice on improving their lifestyle and reducing sedentary behaviour.

PHOTO: FREEPIK
PHOTO: FREEPIK

People in this group were given a fitness tracker and a standing desk.

The second group – the control group – also had a health coach, but only to set healthy lifestyle goals, not to change their level of physical activity or become less sedentary.

At the end of the six-month observation period, the researchers found that members of the first group sat for an average of 31 minutes less per day than the control group.

They also had nearly 3.5 mmHg lower blood pressure, “comparable to reductions of 4mmHg in studies of increased physical activity and 3mmHg in studies of weight loss,” the researchers said.

“Our findings are really promising because sitting less is a change that may be easier for people than increasing physical activity, especially for older adults who are more likely to be living with restrictions like chronic pain or reduced physical ability,” said study lead author and KPWHRI researcher Dr Dori Rosenberg in a press release.

Elderly people generally sit for between 65 per cent and 80 per cent of their waking hours, according to the study.

This level of sedentary behaviour can increase the risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular (heart) disease. The researchers now want to undertake further research to determine which solution had the greatest impact on the results obtained.

“We aren’t sure which piece of this was most impactful,” noted Dr Rosenberg.

“Do people need the desk and the activity tracker and 10 coaching sessions to successfully change their sitting time?

“Or might they be able to do it with one or two pieces of that? Having a little more insight will be useful when we look at how to best implement this in a healthcare setting where resources might be limited.” 

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