Every extra 500 steps you walk each a day in old age slashes the risk of heart attack or stroke by 14%, study suggests
Walking an extra 500 steps a day in your 70s could significantly cut the risk of a heart attack and stroke, research has found.
Scientists found that those who walked the extra quarter of a mile each day lowered their chances of cardiovascular problems by 14 percent.
Experts say the findings suggest setting ‘attainable goals’ on fitness trackers could help to maintain good health in old age.
Most studies have focused on early-to-midlife adults with daily goals of 10,000 or more steps, which may not be attainable for older individuals, researchers said.
Walking an extra 500 steps a day in your 70s reduces the risk of a heart attack or stroke, study finds (stock image)
So in their study of 15,792 adults with an average age of 78, they wanted to focus on the health impacts of daily step counts in older people.
Scientists analyzed health data including more than 450 people who used a pedometer-like device, worn at the hip, to measure their daily steps.
These were worn for three or more days, for ten or more hours, with an average step count of about 3,500 steps per day.
Some 7.5 percent of participants experienced a cardiovascular disease event, such as coronary heart disease, stroke or heart failure, over the next 3.5 years.
Compared to those who took fewer than 2,000 steps per day, those who walked around 4,500 steps per day had a 77 percent lower risk, with 12 and 3.5 percent respectively going on to experience a cardiovascular event.
Every additional 500 steps taken per day was incrementally associated with a 14 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease, according to the findings presented at an American Heart Association conference.
Erin E. Dooley, assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Alabama, who led the study said: ‘It’s important to maintain physical activity as we age, however, daily step goals should also be attainable.
‘We were surprised to find that every additional quarter of a mile, or 500 steps, of walking had such a strong benefit to heart health.’
She added: ‘While we do not want to diminish the importance of higher intensity physical activity, encouraging small increases in the number of daily steps also has significant cardiovascular benefits.
‘If you are an older adult over the age of 70, start with trying to get 500 more steps per day.’
Additional research is needed to determine if meeting a higher daily count of steps prevents or delays cardiovascular disease, or if lower step counts may be an indicator of underlying disease.
Steps were only measured at one single point in time, and the researchers were unable to examine if changes in steps over time impacted CVD event risk, they added.
Why 10,000 steps a day is NOT the holy grail
For decades, 10,000 daily steps has been held up as the holy grail.
You have probably read about the myriad of health benefits it can provide — from weight loss, to a lower risk of cancer, dementia and heart disease.
Today’s fitness trackers are set to a default goal of 10,000 steps and will buzz, ping or send you a congratulatory notification when you hit that target. Private health insurers have even begun offering gift vouchers to customers who accomplish it.
But where did the magical number even come from?
You would be forgiven for assuming it was borne out of decades of painstaking research into the precise number of steps needed to keep our body in tip-top condition.
It was, however, a clever marketing ploy by a Japanese company trying to sell pedometers in the wake of the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games. At that time, there was an increased focus on fitness in the host nation and firms had tried to capitalize on the craze surrounding the Games.
One campaign involved the marketing of Yamasa’s pedometer called the Manpo-kei, which literally means ‘10,000 steps meter’ in Japanese.
But the arbitrary figure was never grounded in science. Instead, the number was selected because the benchmark was a nice, round memorable figure.
Professor Tom Yates, one of the world’s leading experts in the field of physical activity and sedentary behavior at the University of Leicester, told MailOnline: ‘There was no evidence for it to start with.’