Walking 6,000 Steps Daily May Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease, New Study Says

The researchers found that older adults who walked between 6,000 and 9,000 steps per day had a 40 to 50 percent less chance of experiencing a cardiovascular event.

Senior woman exercising taking pulse
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For many, walking has become a favorable activity thanks to its many proven health benefits. Studies have shown that the form of exercise may slow down aging, improve brain function, and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. But according to a new study published in Circulation, how many steps you walk could dictate how much you truly benefit from your daily stroll—especially when it comes to matters of the heart.

Researchers from University of Massachusetts Amherst wanted to find the connection between steps per day and cardiovascular disease. They uncovered that older adults who walked between 6,000 and 9,000 steps per day had a 40 to 50 percent less chance of a cardiovascular event, such as a heart attack or stroke, compared to participants who walked just 2,000 steps per day.

The study authors found no link between steps per day and cardiovascular risk in younger adults. This is likely because cardiovascular disease comes with age and usually doesn't occur until you get older.

To obtain their findings, the researchers conducted a meta-analysis of eight studies, involving more than 20,000 people. "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," said Amanda Paluch, assistant professor of kinesiology in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences in a university release. "When accumulating more steps per day, there was a progressively lower risk."

Paluch's team encourages older adults who are walking less than 6,000 steps daily to try to get that number up going forward. "The people who are the least active have the most to gain," she says. "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," she says. "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."

These results are a follow up to a previous study conducted by Paluch and her team earlier this year. The researchers challenged the pre-conceived notion that walking 10,000 steps per day was necessary for longevity. The meta-analysis, which involved nearly 50,000 participants, found that walking between 6,000 and 8,000 steps per day was linked with a lower risk of death from all causes among older adults.

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