Walking That Far Every Day For A Year Can Reduce Heart Attack And Stroke Risk By 8%
Taking just 2,000 extra steps a day could help people prone to heart attacks and stroke cut their risk by eight per cent, claim researchers.
The exercise is equivalent to walking 20 minutes a day at a moderate pace, says a study in The Lancet medical journal (must credit).
The health benefits are gained by anyone doing 2,000 extra steps for a year on top of their normal levels of activity.
But doing 4,000 extra steps – 40 minutes of additional daily walking – matches the benefits from taking a statin, says study leader Dr Thomas Yates, of the Diabetes Research Unit at Leicester University.
He said ‘Doing 4,000 extra steps a day reduces your cardiovascular risk by about 16-20 per cent, which is the equivalent of taking a statin.
‘However, a statin has side effects and only reduces cholesterol, whereas walking has a much bigger range of health benefits.’
The study looked at 9,306 adults from 40 countries who had impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), which can lead to diabetes, or other heart disease risk factors.
Using a pedometer, researchers recorded usual walking activity in terms of average number of steps taken per day over a week, both at the start of the study and again 12 months later.
The researchers analysed the relationship between the number of steps taken per day and the risk of subsequent cardiovascular disease after taking account of a wide range of factors such as body-mass index, smoking status, diet, clinical history, and medication use.
Altogether 531 cardiovascular events such as heart attacks were recorded.
The study showed those people with greater levels of activity at the start of the study had lower levels of risk, and that doing more walking during the year-long study cut the risk still further.
It found that every additional 2000 steps taken a day over one year-roughly equivalent to 20 min a day of moderately-paced walking-reduces the risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke by eight per cent.
Dr Yates said one in eight people is affected by poor blood sugar control, putting them at risk of heart-related events.
He said ‘This is the first study to specifically quantify the extent to which change in walking behaviour can modify the risk of heart disease, stroke, and cardiovascular-related deaths.
‘Our results provide novel evidence that changing physical activity levels through simply increasing the number of steps taken can substantially reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, such as heart attack and stroke.
‘Importantly, these benefits are seen regardless of bodyweight status or the starting level of activity.
‘These novel findings provide the strongest evidence yet for the importance of physical activity in high risk populations and will inform diabetes and cardiovascular disease prevention programmes worldwide.’
Dr Richard Elliot, research communications officer at Diabetes UK charity, said ‘This study adds to the wealth of evidence that regular physical activity can help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems such as stroke and heart disease in people at high risk of Type 2 diabetes.
‘Though the study was limited by missing data and doesn’t explain why this is happening, it is encouraging to see that simple, easy-to-make changes – such as an extra 20 minutes of walking a day – were linked to such a significant impact on health, and that these benefits appeared to grow as activity increased.
‘Further trials looking at the direct impact of physical activity are now needed to back up these results.’
Julie Ward, Senior Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said ‘Getting plenty of exercise has many health benefits and helps to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. This is particularly important for people with diabetes as they are already at greater risk of heart attacks and stroke.
‘We should all aim for 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week. This means any activity which makes you feel warmer, breathe harder and makes your heart beat faster than normal.
‘If 150 minutes sounds intimidating, remember it can be broken up into smaller chunks. After all, the 2,000 steps in this study equates to roughly 20 minutes of moderately-paced walking, so even a brisk walk in your lunch break will count.’