How many steps do you really need for a healthy heart?

We’re often told we need to take 10,000 steps each day to maintain a healthy heart. But do you really need to step out that often? Recent research suggests not.

Daily walking is a great way to exercise. It’s free and it can be as low- or high-impact as you want it to be. There’s no doubt that the more you walk, the healthier you’re likely to be.

But if you’re anything like me, it’s not that simple. It can be difficult (if not sometimes impossible) to find the time for a stroll, let alone the 10,000 steps that are widely recommended.

Which is why a study in the European Journal of Cardiology has caused a stir. It’s findings suggest your risk of dying from cardiovascular disease drops significantly after taking just over 2000 steps each day (2337 steps to be exact).

The researchers also found your risk of dying from any cause drops if you’re doing at least 3997 steps each day.

The study, billed as one of the biggest studies of walking ever conducted, analysed the health data of 226,889 respondents from 17 different studies around the world and found that the more you walk, the greater the health benefits. Seems obvious right?

But it also also discovered how little you need to improve before you start to see benefits. The researchers found your risk of dying from any cause drops with each extra 500 to 1000 steps. For example, walking an extra 1000 steps netted you a 15 per cent reduction in risk.

The researchers did not find an upper limit to these benefits either, with health benefits increasing gradually up until at least 20,000 steps per day – the highest recorded in the study.

Professor Maciej Banach, lead author of the study, told EurekaAlert the results show walking is a universally beneficial activity.

“Our study confirms that the more you walk, the better,” he says.

“We found that this applied to both men and women, irrespective of age, and irrespective of whether you live in a temperate, sub-tropical or sub-polar region of the world, or a region with a mixture of climates.

“In addition, our analysis indicates that as little as 4000 steps a day are needed to significantly reduce deaths from any cause, and even fewer to reduce deaths from cardiovascular disease.”

There is a well-established body of evidence to suggest leading a sedentary lifestyle is a major risk factor for an array of health conditions and decreased life expectancy.

In Australia, it’s estimated that more than 50 per cent of adults don’t meet recommended daily exercise guidelines and inactivity contributes significantly to the burden on our health system.

According to World Health Organization data, insufficient physical activity is the fourth most frequent cause of death in the world, with 3.2 million deaths a year related to physical inactivity.

How many steps would you average a day? Do you think you might be able to achieve the numbers mentioned here? Let us know in the comments section below.

Also read: Three things to include in a DIY exercise program

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