Walking to School Could Reduce Stress Reactivity in Children and May Curb Risk of Heart Disease, Study Shows
BUFFALO, N.Y. — A simple morning walk to school could reduce stress reactivity in children during the school day, curbing increases in heart rate and blood pressure that can lead to cardiovascular disease later in life, according to a new University at Buffalo study.
UB researchers report in the August 2010 issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise that children who took a simulated walk to school later experienced smaller elevations in systolic blood pressure, heart rate and perceived stress while taking a short exam than children who had gotten a simulated ride to school.
Cardiovascular reactivity — including changes in heart rate and blood pressure due to stress — is associated with the beginnings of cardiovascular disease in children, and atherosclerosis — the dangerous build-up of cholesterol, calcium, fat and other substances in artery walls — in adults.
“The cardiovascular disease process begins in childhood, so if we can find some way of stopping or slowing that process, that would provide an important health benefit,” says James Roemmich, UB associate professor of pediatrics and exercise and nutrition science and senior investigator on the study, which he completed with graduate students Maya Lambiase and Heather Barry. “We know that physical activity has a protective effect on the development of cardiovascular disease, and one way it may be doing so is by reducing stress reactivity.”