People aged 60 and older who take 3,600 steps a day can reduce their risk of developing heart failure by 26%, a new study has shown.

Researchers from the University at Buffalo say that people in this age bracket don’t necessarily have to aim for 10,000 steps a day – this lower figure, walked at a normal pace, still brings significant health benefits.

They carried out a study of almost 6,000 American women, evaluating physical activity, sedentary time and heart failure risk. 

Participants wore an accelerometer to measure their activity for up to seven days. Light activity included things like jobs around the house and caregiving, while more vigorous activity included climbing the stairs, gardening or walking at a normal pace.

Among the group, there were 407 cases of heart failure during an average follow-up of just over seven years.

For those who undertook light intensity activities for 70 minutes a day, there was, on average, a 12% lower risk of heart failure.

Women who exercised at a moderate-to-vigorous level for 30 minutes a day had a 16% lower risk.

Conversely, there was a 17% greater risk of heart failure on average for every 90 minutes of sedentary time.

Lead author Dr Michael J. LaMonte, research professor of epidemiology and environmental health, said: “In ambulatory older women, higher amounts of usual daily light and moderate intensity activities were associated with lower risk of developing heart failure with preserved ejection fraction independent of demographic and clinical factors associated with heart failure risk.

“Accumulating 3,000 steps per day might be a reasonable target that would be consistent with the amount of daily activity performed by women in this study.

“Our results showing heart failure prevention in older women might be enhanced through walking around 3,000 steps or so per day at usual pace is very relevant given the current emphasis at the federal level on identifying an amount of daily physical activity that can be referenced against steps per day for cardiovascular health and resilience to incorporate in future public health guidelines.”

The study examined two different types of heart failure, including the most common type –heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF). 

For this type of heart failure, the pattern was the same – light to moderate daily activity lowers the risk; prolonged sedentary time raises the risk.

Dr LaMonte said: “This is a major, unique finding of our study because there is very little published data on physical activity and HFpEF, so we are providing new information upon which other studies can build.

“More importantly, HFpEF is the most common form of heart failure seen in older women and among racial and ethnic minority groups, and at present there are few established treatment options, which makes primary prevention all the more relevant for HFpEF.

“The potential for light intensity activities of daily life to contribute to the prevention of HFpEF in older women is an exciting and promising result for future studies to evaluate in other groups, including older men.”

Read the study in JAMA Cardiology.

Get our free newsletters

Stay up to date with the latest news, research and breakthroughs.

You May Also Like

Type 2 diabetes found to be a ‘significant risk factor’ among stroke victims

More evidence has been published which supports that diabetes is a “significant…

Twice daily dairy intakes could reduce type 2 diabetes risk

Eating cheese, yoghurt or eggs twice a day could help lower the…

Top diabetes professor drafts risk assessment document for frontline COVID-19 staff

The health and wellbeing of frontline NHS staff has been prioritised among…