Brief periods of gentle physical activity can substantially reduce blood pressure and risk or stroke and heart attack in people with type 2 diabetes, according to new research.
The study, conducted by researchers in Melbourne, Australia, suggests that a little bit of exercise is much better than nothing, offering a solution to people who struggle to find time in the day for extended exercise.
Details of the study
The study involved 24 obese or overweight participants with type 2 diabetes and an average age of 62. All of the participants sat for an eight-hour period. Every 30 minutes, the participants exercised very briefly, either walking on a treadmill for three minutes at a pace of 2mph or performing light resistance exercises – including half-squats, calf raises, knee raises or gluteal muscle squeezes.
The researchers observed a 10-point decrease in systolic pressure among the walking participants, and a 12-point decrease in the resistance exercise participants. A systolic blood pressure of more than 140 is considered “high blood pressure.”
Small changes, large benefits
“It appears you don’t have to do very much,” said Bronwyn Kingwell, PhD. “We saw some marked blood pressure reductions over trial days when people did the equivalent of walking to the water cooler of some simple body-weight movements on the spot.”
Although small, this is the first study to focus on the benefits of brief, gentle exercise on type 2 patients in a controlled lab setting.
The researchers stressed that people with and without diabetes should still try to engage in more protracted exercise. But brief, gentle exercise could provide an additional solution when there isn’t time.
“Light activity breaks are not meant to replace regular, purposeful exercise. But they may be a practical solution to cut down sitting time, especially if you’re at your desk all day,” said Kingwell.
The findings were presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2015.
Diabetes and blood pressure
Approximately eight out of every 10 people with type 2 diabetes will develop high blood pressure. In people with type 1, this figure is three out of every 10. High blood pressure increases the risk of several diabetic complications, including heart disease and stroke.
Weight loss, regular exercise and healthy eating all significantly reduce blood pressure. Symptoms include headaches, vision problems, nose bleeds, laboured breathing, fits and black-outs. Speak to your GP if you are concerned that you might have high blood pressure.

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