Walking can lower risk of early death, but there’s more to it than number of steps, study finds


Put on your walking shoes and don’t forget your step counter: Getting up to 10,000 steps a day can lower your risk for cancer, heart disease, and an early death, but any quantity of walking is beneficial, according to a recent study.

The study discovered that health advantages increased with each step but peaked at 10,000 steps, after which the effects diminished. For persons who engage in unstructured, ad hoc physical activity, such as housework, gardening, and dog walks, counting steps may be particularly crucial.

Notably, according to study coauthor Borja del Pozo Cruz, senior researcher in health sciences at the University of Cadiz in Spain and adjunct associate professor at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense, Denmark, “we detected an association between incidental steps (steps taken to go about daily life) and a lower risk of both cancer and heart disease.”

Dr. Andrew Freeman, head of cardiovascular prevention and wellness at National Jewish Health in Denver, Colorado, stated, “On the whole, I think the study is well done and it certainly continues to contribute to the foundation of knowledge that tells us exercise is good stuff.” He wasn’t a part of the study.

Physical exercise is just fantastic, according to Freeman. It’s the proverbial “fountain of youth,” if you will, if you combine it with eating a more plant-based diet, relaxing, getting adequate sleep, and interacting with other people.

Walking helps dementia too

In a recent study, led by Del Pozo Cruz and his team, it was discovered that 10,000 steps per day reduced dementia risk by 50%. According to the previous study, risk dropped by 25% with as few as 3,800 steps each day.

However, walking for 30 minutes at a brisk 112 steps per minute reduced dementia risk by 62% while maximizing risk reduction. It wasn’t necessary to do the 30 minutes of brisk walking all at once; it may be stretched out throughout the course of the day.

Del Pozo Cruz stated via email that “our perspective is that intensity of stepping matters โ€” over and above volume.”

The latest study, which was released on Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, followed 78,500 participants from England, Scotland, and Wales between the ages of 40 and 79 who wore wrist step counters continuously for seven days.

Researchers divided each person’s daily steps into two categories: walking slower than 40 steps per minute (more of an amble, such going from room to room) and walking faster than 40 steps per minute (also known as “purposeful” walking”).

Peak performers, or those who took the most steps per minute in a 30-minute period throughout the course of a day, were divided into a third category (although, again, those 30 minutes did not have to occur in sequence).

Researchers linked that data to medical records around seven years later and discovered that persons who walked the most steps per minute โ€” in this example, about 80 steps per minute โ€” had the greatest reductions in their risks for cancer, heart disease, and premature mortality from any cause.

Researchers discovered that the condition under study affected the relationship between peak 30-minute steps and risk reduction.

Del Pozo Cruz stated through email that “we detected a 62% reduction for dementia: This figure was over 80% for CVD mortality and incidence and much less (approx. 20%) for cancer.”

He remarked, “This may be connected to particular routes by which physical activity is advantageous. “It pushes the body generally: can produce more muscle, a bigger heart, and a better level of fitness, all of which are recognized preventative factors for cancer and cardiovascular disease, among other health issues as well.”

Get breathless

What should we remember? Unless you truly want to, you don’t need to become fixated on the number of steps, according to Freeman.

Every step counts, without a doubt, and we know that daily brisk walking has added advantages for things like blood pressure control and cardiovascular exercise, according to Freeman, who served as the first chair of the American College of Cardiology’s Nutrition & Lifestyle workgroup.

But in reality, the same objective has always been important: Push yourself, no matter what fitness level you’re at. Obviously, consult your doctor beforehand, but your aim is to become exhausted for 30 minutes every day.

What does being out of breath during exercise mean? It isn’t panting and gasping so forcefully that you can hardly breathe. Breathlessness, according to Freeman, occurs when you are walking beside someone and they start talking to you while you are having some difficulty responding.

Spend 30 minutes breathing heavily at whatever rate you’re going, Freeman advised, and then keep pushing yourself to be just a little bit dissatisfied with where you are now in order to improve.

He said that becoming more physically active frequently kick-starts other beneficial behaviors, like a better diet, and deters unhealthy ones, like smoking.

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