A new Apple Watch study links a low number of steps taken to high blood pressure

Apple Watch ECG feature
Apple Watch ECG feature (Image credit: iMore)

What you need to know

  • A new study used Apple Watches to measure steps.
  • Wearers had their blood pressure checked weekly.
  • Those who took more steps had lower blood pressure.

New research has identified that those who take more steps during their days tend to also have a lower blood pressure than those who are more sedentary. As a result, those who ran the study believe they know how many steps someone should take to achieve a "normal" blood pressure.

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco strapped Apple Watches to 638 people for at least five hours per day over a period of a month. Those same people also had their blood pressure measured weekly to see whether there was any link between the two. As The Inquirer reports, there most definitely was.

Over the course of around five months, the recordings showed that the participants averaged about 7,500 steps per day. The average systolic blood pressure among the group was found to be 122 mmHg, and the average diastolic blood pressure was 76 mmHg, which are levels considered to be normal to slightly high, according to the 2017 ACC/AHA High Blood Pressure in Adults guideline.The researchers also found that the participants who had racked up a higher number of steps each day had significantly lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure than those who walked less. For example, for every 1,000 steps taken each day, the participants' systolic blood pressure was around 0.45 points lower, meaning that a person taking 10,000 steps daily would reduce their systolic blood pressure by 2.25 points, compared to a person walking just 5,000 steps daily, on average.

The researchers noted that taking 10,000 steps per day could be the difference between someone achieving a "normal" blood pressure reading, or one that was considered to be high.

While the team is keen to point out that the relationship between steps and blood pressure is observational rather than necessarily one of cause and effect, that isn't the only point of note here. This study is one of the first instances of an Apple Watch being used in such a study, with smartwatches as a whole likely to have an increasingly important role in the tracking of physical activity and its relationship to other body measurements and statistics.

Apple has long marketed Apple Watch as a fitness device, adding new features like support for taking an ECG and more.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.