A new study suggests that people over 60 may significantly reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease by walking between 6,000 and 9,000 steps per day.
Compared to people who walked 2,000 steps per day, researchers found that individuals walking between 6,000 and 9,000 steps daily had a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and strokes, by 40% to 50%.
This study focuses on cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk.
reports the findings of a meta-analysis of eight prospective studies using health data from 20,152 individuals in the United States and 42 other countries. Their average age was 63.2 years, plus or minus 12.4 years, with 52% being women.
The study appears in the journal Circulation
The lead researcher of the study, Dr. Amanda Paluch said people who currently walk between 2,000 and 3,000 steps a day would experience the most significant reduction in CVD risk by walking more.
For those already taking 7,000 steps a day, the improvement would be less dramatic, though still significant, she noted.
The study found that for every 1,000 steps added, there was an incremental reduction in CVD risk.
She said that there was no upper limit at which there was no additional benefit in the study. Each incremental increase was associated with lower heart disease risk in older adults.
The analysis saw a progressive reduction in cardiovascular diseases risk for people walking as many as 15,000 steps a day. Since the original studies went no higher than that, Dr. Paluch said that her analysis offers no insights regarding the possible benefits of taking more than 15,000 steps a day.
The study suggests that people hoping to lower their risk of CVD may consider setting goals that feel more attainable than the often-cited 10,000-steps-a-day target, which was not based on scientific research.
The study found no association between increasing one’s steps and lowering CVD risk for younger adults.
Dr. Paluch said this is not surprising since CVD is largely a disease of older people. The study reports just 4.2% of younger adults had subsequent CVD events, as opposed to 9.5% of older adults.
This does not mean that younger adults shouldn’t be exercising for their cardiovascular health, said Dr. Paluch.
Another cardiologist said that steps alone should not be used to gauge how much exercise is enough.
Ideally, exercise should be intentional and daily, with at least moderate intensity. Younger adults should also focus on incorporating unintentional exercise into their daily activity, such as taking the stairs over the elevator, walking in preference to driving, and more physically active recreation, the cardiologist said.