The list of health benefits of walking continues to grow. Results of a recent study led by Amanda Baloch, a professor of kinesiology in the University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences, show that older adults who walk between 6,000 and 9,000 steps per day have a 40 to 50% lower risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attack or stroke compared to those who walk 2,000 steps.
Research by Amanda and the Steps for Health Collaborative initiative did show that more movement, even less than the much-touted “10,000 steps a day,” was associated with benefits in terms of longevity. A meta-analysis of 15 studies involving nearly 50,000 people from four continents found that walking between 6,000 and 8,000 steps per day was associated with a lower risk of death from all causes among older adults.
Following the results, Amanda and her team wanted to address the area of minimal step-of-the-day planning and cardiovascular disease. The results were similar.
While there appears to be an added benefit for those walking more than 6,000 steps, Amanda says, encouraging less active seniors to take more steps is perhaps the most important public health message. “For those taking 2,000 or 3,000 steps a day, doing a little more can go a long way for heart health. If you’re at 6,000 steps, building up to 7,000 and then 8,000 is also beneficial, as a gradual improvement.”
A meta-analysis of eight studies included more than 20,000 people from 43 countries. For younger adults, no link was detected between daily steps and cardiovascular disease risk. “This is because cardiovascular disease is associated with aging and usually doesn’t show up until we’re older,” says Amanda, whose project was supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Future research involving younger adults and daily steps will focus on the precursors of cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. “These conditions develop in younger adults and are important for early prevention”, says the researcher.