The health benefits of walking have been reinforced by a recent study which found that taking more steps per day results in a lower risk of premature death from cardiovascular disease.

The study was conducted by an international group of scientists who formed the Steps for Health Collaborative, led by University of Massachusetts Amherst physical activity epidemiologist, Amanda Paluch.

Researchers discovered that walking between 6,000 and 9,000 steps per day decreases older adults’ risk of a cardiovascular event, such as a heart attack or a stroke, when compared to those who take 2,000 steps per day.

Paluch, who is also an assistant professor of kinesiology in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences, said: “We found for adults over 60, there was a strikingly lower risk of a cardiovascular event or disease over an average follow-up of six years. When accumulating more steps per day, there was a progressively lower risk.”

The group of researchers previously found that moving more, even if it is below the recommended 10,000 steps per day, resulted in health benefits, including living longer.

The researchers evaluated 15 studies involving data from almost 50,000 people and summarised that walking between 6,000 and 8,000 steps per day decreased risk of death from all causes among older adults.

They then decided to analyse the association between how many steps people take and cardiovascular disease. This involved data from more than 20,000 people across eight studies and 43 countries.

Following the research, which found continued benefits to taking more than 6,000 steps per day, Paluch suggested that encouraging older people who are the least active is an important public health message.

“The people who are the least active have the most to gain,” said Paluch. “For those who are at 2,000 or 3,000 steps a day, doing a little bit more can mean a lot for their heart health. If you’re at 6,000 steps, getting to 7,000 and then to 8,000 also is beneficial, it’s just a smaller, incremental improvement.”

There was no association between daily step count and cardiovascular risk in younger adults.

“This is because cardiovascular disease is a disease of aging and often doesn’t come to fruition until we’re at older ages,” added Paluch. “You’re not going to see many people develop cardiovascular disease after six years of follow-up in young to middle adulthood.”

However, further research would benefit from focusing on the signs of cardiovascular disease, like high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

“Those conditions develop in younger adults and are important for early prevention,” Paluch says.

Half of the studies analysed by the researchers also recorded walking intensity, meaning how quick people were walking.

Paluch added: “We’re interpreting these results with caution, but we did not find any striking association with walking intensity.

“There was no additional benefit with how fast you’re walking, beyond the total number of steps that you accumulated.”

The research was supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and published in the journal Circulation.

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