Many people believe that walking 10,000 steps a day is a good goal to ensure that you stay healthy. Now a new study suggests that, for older adults, walking as few as 6,000 steps a day is all it takes to cut your risk of suffering a stroke or heart attack in half.
At the same time, the study finds that 2,000 steps a day is too few to gain sufficient benefits.Read More »
Apps are available that can measure how many steps you take in a day.
Study tracked older adults
The research for the study was conducted by Amanda Paluch, a University of Massachusetts Amherst physical activity epidemiologist. She says that the study followed adults aged more than 60 over six years and found that the risk of suffering a heart disease or even a stroke or heart attack was “strikingly lower” for those who walked 6,000 steps a day over that time. The risk was lowered by as much as 40% to 50% when compared with those who walked only 2,000 steps a day.
Lower your risk even more
Those findings do not mean, however, that a person should stop at 6,000 steps.
The more steps that were added each day, the more the risk was lowered, adds Paluch, who leads a global consortium called the Steps for Health Collaborative.
Earlier research by Paluch and the consortium found that more movement helps you to live longer in addition to protecting your heart from disease.
Paluch says that 10,000 steps a day is a measure that she calls “unscientific, although highly touted.” The study brings science to bear on the measure.
Walk at your own pace
An interesting aspect of the study is that the researchers failed to find any link between heart problems and the speed or intensity of walking undertaken by those adults in the study. In other words, walking faster does not lower your cardiovascular risk any more than simply walking 6,000 steps a day does.
The research led by Paluch included almost 50,000 people from four continents. It found that walking from 6,000 to 8,000 steps a day was connected with a lower risk of death—from all causes—among older adults. The study showed that 6,000 was the lower limit that would achieve the benefit.
Built on earlier studies
They then built on those findings to tackle the less-chartered area of the number of steps each day that is linked with heart disease as opposed to all causes. They found that the results were similar when it came to determining the most beneficial number of steps.
Although no additional benefits were found for those people who walked more than 6,000 steps a day, Paluch says, the least-active adults older than 60 should be encouraged to take even more steps.
Those who are the least active can achieve the most benefit from doing so, Paluch says.
Her advice to you
She puts it this way:
• Those who are walking only 2,000 to 3,000 steps a day are advised to walk up to 6,000 steps a day. Doing so can be a lot more beneficial for your heart health.
• Those who are already walking 6,000 steps a day can benefit even more by reaching 7,000 steps and then up to 8,000 steps every day.
No link for younger people
For younger people, no link was detected between the number of steps that were walked each day and the risk of heart disease over a six-year period.
The reason is that heart disease is an ailment related to aging, Paluch explains. It fails to have an impact on us until we are older. You are unlikely to see many people develop heart disease over six years when they are in their young to middle-aged years, she notes.
Paluch suggests that future studies should concentrate on high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and obesity as well as other factors as predictors of heart disease. These conditions do develop when a person is younger and are significant indicators for early prevention.
Paluch is among a group of researchers who are finding significant evidence to determine public health recommendations for accessible and simple physical activity, such as walking.
The study, which was supported by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is published in the journal Circulation.
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