We’ve all heard the “walk 10,000 steps a day to be healthy” pitch, but new research says that, while 10,000 is better than nothing, it might not quite be enough.
Photo by Timo Newton-Syms.
The study, published in the International Journal of Obesity, looked at postal workers in Glasgow, Scotland, including office workers and carriers who primarily deliver mail by foot. Each participant wore an activity tracker and had their body mass index, waist size, blood sugar level, and cholesterol profile measured throughout the study. All of which, of course, are risk factors for heart disease.
Unsurprisingly, those who sat most of the day had higher BMIs, larger waistlines, poor blood sugar control, and less than ideal cholesterol profiles when compared to those who moved around more. In fact, for every hour of sitting during the day beyond five hours, participants had a 0.2 per cent increased likelihood of developing heart disease in their lifetime based on the researchers’ model.
But those who walked a lot throughout each day were the picture of health. Workers who walked 15,000 steps or more each day (which is roughly 11km), or were standing upright for seven hours or more, had normal BMIs, average waistlines, and had no features of metabolic syndrome. Overall, their risk of heart disease was very low when compared to those who walked fewer than 15,000 steps, assuming they weren’t already at high risk for hereditary reasons. This research suggests that our current estimate of 10,000 steps per day may be too conservative, and that 15,000 steps is the mark we should be aiming for if we want to stave off life-threatening cardiac conditions.
Of course, any amount of standing and walking each day is likely to reduce your risk of heart disease. 10,000 steps are certainly better than no steps at all. That said, Dr. William Tigbe, who led the study, tells the New York Times that 15,000 steps is more than realistic with a little effort. All it takes is walking at a somewhat brisk pace for two hours. And it can be done in bits, Tigbe says. Walk for 30 minutes before work, during lunch, and after dinner. Add a few, quick 10-minute walks throughout the day and you’re golden.