Every step counts when trying to lower BP, elevate mental health

Spring is here and with it comes milder temperatures, more daylight, and budding greenery all around. It is the perfect time to lace up those sneakers, take a stroll and welcome the season.

Why walk

Walking is attributed to improved health.

“Walking helps maintain healthy body weight, reduces high blood pressure, and decreases the risk for type 2 diabetes,” according to “The Benefits of Walking,” published by Columbine Health Systems Center for Healthy Aging. “People who regularly walk four times per week for at least 15 minutes live longer and healthier lives compared to those who are more sedentary.”

Higher levels of walking can also enhance mood by significantly decreasing “symptoms of stress, such as anxiety, sadness, fatigue, and lack of motivation.” For those who struggle with pain, “walking actually helps decrease symptoms of chronic pain, which makes it a great activity for those with joint problems and low back pain,” the article states.

Putting walking to the test

During a visit with her primary care physician, Paulette Boone was surprised to learn that her blood pressure, which typically averaged 117/77, was significantly elevated. Her top, or systolic, number reached an all-time high of 152.

Boone’s A1C numbers were also concerning. “I didn’t want to be stereotyped as a person with hypertension, and I didn’t want to be considered a diabetic and have to rely on medication,” she said.

After the appointment, the Stone Mountain resident immediately began making lifestyle changes by reducing her sugar and carb intake and incorporating walking into her daily regimen.

Boone started by doing stretches and floor exercises in the morning and walking her dogs for 1 mile after work three to five days a week. On her return appointment three months later, the 58-year-old had achieved major improvements.

“My A1C was down from 6.2 to 5.7, and my blood pressure was 123/79,” she said. “I also noticed that I was sleeping better and the pain in my knees improved as well.”

As an added bonus, she lost 12 pounds and lowered her stress levels. One year later, Boone said she is convinced walking works. “I don’t take any blood pressure medications, and I don’t take anything for my A1C.”


Mental health has become a popular topic in recent years. Transparent conversations about how stress, anxiety and isolation affect overall wellness have led some people to adopt new approaches to daily living. Walking is a great remedy.

In the book “Walk Your Way Calm,” author Jennifer Walsh offers tips for setting achievable goals.

“Start small (even just once a week for 20 minutes is a great start!) then eventually aim to walk three days a week for 20 minutes or longer, ideally outdoors,” Walsh said.

She also suggested using mindfulness while walking by intentionally observing nature, breathing and sounds. “It’s a great way for your brain to reshuffle from thinking about to-do-lists or worst-case scenarios and instead zone in on a single achievable task,” said Walsh.

To increase accountability and enjoyment, Walsh recommended recruiting a friend or family member, forming a walking group or walking virtually with someone while talking by phone at a set time and day.

Get moving

Atlanta-based physical therapist Ross Davis said the best decision is to just start.

“I think that everyone who can move should be moving. As you get stronger and as your balance improves, start increasing your distance,” he said.

Whether the goal is to reduce stress, improve wellness, or simply to enjoy fresh air and sunshine, make every step count.