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Walk 8000 steps a day to halve heart disease risk

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Walk up to 8000 steps a day and you’ll halve your chances of heart disease.

That’s good advice for anyone, but it is especially important if you’re 60 or older, say researchers from the University of Massachusetts.

If you’re sedentary and walking fewer than 2000 steps a day, you need to be aiming for at least 6000 steps, which seems to be the critical point when the risk of heart disease starts to drop dramatically.  Health risks continue to diminish beyond that level, but at a more gradual tempo.

“The people who are the least active have the most to gain.  For those who are at 2000 or 3000 steps a day, doing a little bit more can mean a lot for heart health.  If you’re at 6000 steps, getting to 7000 and then to 8000 also is beneficial, but it’s just a smaller, incremental improvement,” said researcher Amanda Paluch.

Paluch and her team analysed data from eight studies involving around 20,000 people.  The sweet spot for preventing heart disease was walking between 6000 and 8000 steps a day, and those achieving that were up to 50 percent less likely to develop heart disease compared to someone walking just 2000 steps or less.

The benefits of walking were apparent in people who were 60 years or older.  Younger people didn’t seem to benefit from walking, at least in terms of heart disease risk.

That’s because cardiovascular disease is one of ageing, said Paluch, although younger people who step it out could reduce their risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and obesity, all precursors of heart disease.

And it’s the steps that count, not the speed of walking.  People who were walking quickly weren’t reducing their heart disease risk more than those who took it more leisurely, just as long as they were doing the same number of steps.

Circulation, 2022; doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.122.061288

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