And those over 70 who walk an average of 4,500 steps per day have a 77% lower risk than those who walk less than 2,000 steps per day.
In fact, the general conclusion of the study is that if you’re retired, you should buy some sort of pedometer or step counter, keep track of your movements, and try to move more.
(Incidentally, you don’t need to spend much on a pedometer either – despite the marketing. I wore a wrist pedometer for years that cost $15 – the brand is no longer available on Amazon, but it looks identical to this, costs $22 – and it’s excellent Long battery life, you can charge it without a cable, and when I tested the accuracy it beat a lot of the expensive ones .))
The study was quite limited. It covered 452 participants who wore step counters for three days or more, for 10 hours or more, and then performed follow-ups over the next 3.5 years. The average number of steps per day was 3,500. Some 7.5% had a heart attack or stroke or had heart disease. But among those taking less than 2,000 steps a day, that figure was 12%.
Among those taking around 4,500 steps a day, it was only 3.5%.
The average age of participants was 78, about 59% were female and 20% were black.
The study adds to the growing evidence that exercise, even simple walking, is powerful in keeping us younger and healthier.
The caveat with studies like these is that they leave a lot of questions unanswered. It’s inevitable. Only 452 people may not be fully representative of the population. A test over a few days may not be enough to show long-term trends. And what exactly is being measured?
The common sense conclusion is that the kind of people who tend to walk a lot tend to move a lot and are generally more active. They spend less time on the couch. It is good for heart health, especially in old age. Meanwhile, people who walk very little tend to move very little overall, and they tend to be sedentary and spend a lot of time on the couch. And it’s bad for heart health.
What gets measured gets managed, as they say, so the easiest conclusion from the study is to buy a step counter, wear it every day, and track your movements. And just try to increase the numbers.
I programmed my cheap step counter with a daily step goal of 10,000, and it buzzes and alerts me on the days I reach it. If I get to my 70s, maybe I’ll cut that down to 5,000.
A $22 gadget that could help me reduce my risk of a heart attack or stroke by almost 80% sounds like a pretty good deal to me.