By Alice G. Walton
Most of us need to do it; and luckily, science keeps showing that even the most mundane activities — like household chores — can make a big difference to the health of our hearts.
Walking is one of the best and simplest ways to exercise. It can be done virtually for free (though good shoes and a pedometer help) and fits easily into anyone's daily routine. A new study shows exactly what walking just an extra 2,000 steps per day (not as much as it may sound) can do for our cardiovascular health.
The scientists studied people who had impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), a condition that often leads to diabetes and puts a person at increased risk for heart disease and stroke. Impaired glucose tolerance affects about 350 million people worldwide.
To see what effect different walking “dosages” would have on the cardiovascular health of people with IGT, researchers looked at data from 9,000+ seniors taking part in a program to increase their activity to 150 minutes per day.
Study participants wore pedometers to track their daily steps. The team recorded the number of steps for each person at the beginning of the study (before they were asked to increase their activity) and then they were followed-up for 6 years to see what, if any, cardiovascular events, heart attacks and strokes occurred after they increased their step counts.
There were 530 cardiovascular events among the participants and, not surprisingly, the more steps a person took each day, the less his or her risk of these events.
The authors broke the data down more specifically and found that for each 2,000-step increase in people’s activity, there was a 10% reduction in their cardiovascular risk over time.
Over the years, each time a person increased his or her activity by 2,000 steps, the risk of heart attack or stroke went down by another 8%.
The bottom line is that it doesn’t take much to reduce your risk of heart disease. Many experts recommend 10,000 steps per day on average, but people may want to talk to their doctors before making any significant changes in their routine to avoid the risk of injury.
For the average person, 2000 steps is about a mile, and the steps can be added over the course of a day, not necessarily all at once.
The study was carried out by a team at University of Leicester in the UK and published in The Lancet.
December 30, 2013