Indiana University

Skip to:

  1. Search
  2. Breadcrumb Navigation
  3. Content
  4. Browse by Topic
  5. Services & Resources
  6. Additional Resources
  7. Multimedia News

Media Contacts

Janet P. Wallace
Department of Kinesiology

Jaume Padilla
Department of Kinesiology

Tracy James
IU Media Relations

Last modified: Monday, August 29, 2005

Yard work and housecleaning improve blood pressure

Everyday activities can lower blood pressure, IU study finds

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Everyday around-the-house activities such as housecleaning, yard work and washing the car have been shown to significantly lower blood pressure in people with hypertension and prehypertension, Indiana University researchers have found.

The study by Janet P. Wallace, professor in IU Bloomington's Department of Kinesiology, and doctoral students Jaume Padilla and Saejong Park, found that regardless of intensity, four hours of accumulated daily "lifestyle physical activity" had the effect of dropping study participants' blood pressure by a category -- from hypertensive to prehypertensive and from prehypertensive to normal -- for an average of eight and six hours, respectively.

These preliminary findings indicate that these lifestyle physical activities can be as effective as or more effective than other lifestyle modifications, such as special diets and exercise, in reducing high blood pressure. High blood pressure typically is treated through lifestyle changes and medication.

"The findings indicate that physical activity should be considered as an essential component in the management of blood pressure," Padilla said.

Their findings appear in the August issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

Uncontrolled, high blood pressure can increase a person's risk for heart attack, heart failure, kidney failure, stroke and blindness. Wallace said it is well documented that exercise can help lower blood pressure. In recent years, however, health practitioners and organizations have begun recommending simple physical activity, which is not geared toward improving physical fitness and can be less intense, as a way to treat blood pressure despite the lack of research.

"We have a lot of people promoting it, but we need more information," Wallace said.

Their research is one step in gathering this evidence. Their study involved 28 people ages 42 to 63 who had normal blood pressure, had prehypertension, or had a diagnosis of hypertension made by a physician. They were asked to accumulate 150 calories of house and gardening-type activities during a 12-hour period. They wore accelerometers, which measure activity and intensity, and automated ambulatory blood pressure monitors, so they could be monitored closely during both the 24-hour period during which the activity occurred and during a 24-hour period that did not include the activities.

Blood pressure measures how hard and efficiently the heart pumps blood through the body and is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). Clinically, systolic blood pressure measures how hard the heart works when it pumps blood. Diastolic blood pressure measures the resistance to the blood when the heart is not pumping.

Participants with hypertension had systolic blood pressure of 140 mm Hg or greater. After the physical activity, their systolic blood pressure dropped on average 12.9 mm Hg for eight hours. Participants with prehypertension had systolic blood pressure of 120-139 mm Hg. After the physical activity, their systolic blood pressure dropped on average 6 mm Hg for six hours. The diastolic blood pressure of the study participants was essentially normal and was not affected by the physical activity.

Padilla said the next step in their research will involve seeing if lifestyle physical activity can cause a "chronic effect," where such activity over time can result in a drop in blood pressure that lasts longer.

Wallace can be reached at 812-855-6384 and Padilla can be reached at