Walk on: Good daily step count may reduce risk of heart disease and early death

  • Living
  • Thursday, 18 Apr 2024

Walking up to 10,000 steps per day lowers the risk of heart disease and early death even if people spend most of their day sitting down, research suggests. — dpa

WALKING up to 10,000 steps per day lowers the risk of heart disease and early death even if people spend most of their day sitting down, research suggests.

Experts have previously found that people who spend a lot of time sitting while awake, such as at their desks or watching TV, are more likely to suffer an early death and develop heart disease.

But, until now, it has been unclear whether walking can offset the effects of sitting down for most of the day.

A new study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, found that every extra step above 2,200 steps per day – up to around 10,000 – reduces these risks, regardless of how much of the remaining time is spent sitting.

Experts found the lowest risk of early death was among people who took 9,000 to 10,500 steps per day. When it came to avoiding stroke and heart attack, the lowest risks were in people taking around 9,700 steps a day.

For the study, experts led by the University of Sydney used UK Biobank data from 72,174 people who were aged around 61. They all wore an accelerometer device on their wrist for seven days to measure exercise levels.

Over almost seven years of follow-up, 1,633 deaths were recorded and 6,190 cardiovascular events happened, such as heart attack or stroke.

The results showed that any amount of daily steps above 2,200 per day were linked to lower death and heart disease regardless of time spent being sedentary but the benefits increased the more steps people took.

Overall, taking 9,000 to 10,500 steps per day cut the risk of early death by 39% and the risk of a heart attack or stroke by 21%. In both cases, 50% of the benefit was achieved at between 4,000 and 4,500 steps per day.

A second study, published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, found even low levels of exercise can help cut the risk of stroke.

These researchers, including from Imperial College London NHS Healthcare Trust, said: “People should be encouraged to be physically active even at the lowest levels.” – dpa

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