Adding a few extra steps to your walk could save your heart

older couple walking in park

Adding a few more steps to a daily walk can significantly lower the risk of cardiovascular disease in older people, research shows. 

The benefits of walking are well established. A great way to improve or maintain your overall health, walking has been proven to lower your risk of many conditions including diabetes, osteoporosis and even some cancers. 

For older people, the benefits of walking are even greater. Daily walks help to keep your joints flexible, improve your mental health, improve energy levels and are a great way to socialise. 

But walking could deliver even greater benefits to older people, according to an analysis of heart studies presented to the American Heart Association. 

Researchers demonstrated that adding as few as 500 extra steps to a daily walk could reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke or heart failure by up to 14 per cent. 

The analysis focused on the data of 452 subjects aged 70 and over who had participated in previous studies measuring the link between daily step count and cardiovascular disease. 

Participants were, on average, 78 years old with about 60 per cent males and 40 per cent females. Their steps were measured with a pedometer worn daily for around 10 hours. 

Over a three-year follow-up period, the researchers found that participants who took more than 4500 steps per day were 77 per cent less likely to experience a cardiovascular event than those who walked a maximum of 2000 steps. 

Overall, 12 per cent of people who walked fewer than 2000 steps developed a heart issue compared with just 3.5 per cent of those who tallied more than 4500 steps. 

They found that each additional increment of 500 steps was associated with a 14 per cent reduction in cardiovascular risk. 

In Australia, more than 700,000 people aged 65 and over have some form of heart condition and the risk factor increases with age – 16 per cent of 65 to 74-year-olds have a heart condition and that rises to 26 per cent in those aged 75 and over. 

Professor Erin Dooley, lead author of the study, says the results showed how even small changes in routine can lead to extraordinary health benefits for older people. 

“It’s important to maintain physical activity as we age, however daily step goals should also be attainable,” she says. 

“We were surprised to find that every additional 500 steps of walking had such a strong benefit to heart health. 

“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 over the age of 70, start with trying to get 500 more steps per day.”

How often do you go for a walk? How many steps do you usually do? Let us know in the comments section below.

Also read: How much exercise should you be doing over the age of 50?

Written by Brad Lockyer

Brad has deep knowledge of retirement income, including Age Pension and other government entitlements, as well as health, money and lifestyle issues facing older Australians. Keen interests in current affairs, politics, sport and entertainment. Digital media professional with more than 10 years experience in the industry.

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