Heart health: How just 3,000 steps a day can lower your risk of death

Evan Walker
Evan Walker TheMediTary.Com |
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Researchers say the more you walk, the better your health. Grant Faint/Getty Images
  • Researchers are reporting that adding even an extra 500 to 1,000 steps per day to your exercise routine can improve your cardiovascular health.
  • They add that walking more than 4,000 steps per day can reduce your risk of dying from any cause.
  • Experts say walking is a good choice for daily exercise because it’s low cost and is easy to do.
  • They recommend people gradually increase their steps every week rather than make a sudden jump.

The risk of dying from any cause decreases significantly with every additional 500 to 1,000 steps a person takes per day.

That’s according to research published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

In their study, researchers reported that walking at least 3,967 steps per day reduced the risk of dying from any cause while walking 2,337 steps a day reduced the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.

“Our study confirms that the more you walk, the better,” Maciej Banach, the author of the study and a professor of cardiology at the Medical University of Lodz, Poland, and an adjunct professor at the Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Maryland, said in a press statement.

“We found that this applied to both men and women, irrespective of age, and irrespective of whether you live in a temperate, sub-tropical or sub-polar region of the world, or a region with a mixture of climates,” he added. “In addition, our analysis indicates that as little as 4,000 steps a day are needed to significantly reduce deaths from any cause and even fewer to reduce deaths from cardiovascular disease.”

The researchers reported that the more steps a person walked, the greater the Health benefits, even up to 20,000 steps a day. The researchers have yet to determine an upper limit of steps.

“In a world where we have more and more advanced drugs to target specific conditions such as cardiovascular disease, I believe we should always emphasize that lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise, which was a main hero of our analysis, might be at least as, or even more effective in reducing cardiovascular risk and prolonging lives,” Banach said.

Insufficient physical activity accounts for more than 3 million deaths globally every year. According to the World Health Organization, it is the 4th leading mortality risk factor.

Those who are sedentary have a 20 to 30% increased risk of death from all causes compared with those who partake in at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most days of the week.

“People who are sedentary tend to gain weight and we know that fat is generally more inflammatory, leads to more issues with insulin resistance, which can also lead to diabetes and leads to higher blood pressure, a lot of issues related to the weight gain,” Dr. Yu-Ming Ni, a cardiologist and lipidologist at MemorialCare Heart and Vascular Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center in California, told Medical News Today. “But even if you’re not particularly overweight, being sedentary leads to weaker muscles, which make you less resilient to acute infections or illnesses. And we know that those things happen and your ability to stay strong in the face of a difficult time or a physical stressor may mean the difference between surviving an acute illness or not, especially if you’re an older person. And so being sedentary puts you at higher risk for not doing well when you get sick.”

“Steps are so important for those who don’t do any activity at all because there’s no equipment you have to purchase, there’s no gym membership you need to buy. What I tell my patients when it comes to steps is just finding ways to add in a few more steps. That might mean parking a little further away from the market, that might mean taking the stairs, that might mean walking your dog for a further distance,” he added.

The researchers stated that an extra 1,000 steps a day was associated with a 15% reduced risk of death from any cause.

An extra 500 steps a day lead to a 7% reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.

Dr. Matthew Ahmadi, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre in the Faculty of Medicine and Health in Australia, says the research is encouraging news for the public.

“This is good news and an important finding in the study. It lets us know how much ‘bang for our buck’ a person can get from every increase in daily stepping. Throughout the day, 1,000 additional steps is roughly 10 to 15 extra minutes of walking, and 500 additional steps is roughly 5 to 7.5 minutes of walking,” he told Medical News Today.

“Collectively, these findings are important from a public health perspective, as it shows any activity is good activity. This will hopefully encourage people and let them know that any amount of activity they enjoy doing is good for their health, and the more the better,” Ahmadi added.

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