15,000 Steps Are New 10,000

We’ve all heard the slogan “take 10,000 steps a day to be healthy,” but new research shows that while 10,000 is better than nothing, it may not be enough.

The study, published in the International Journal of Obesity , looked at postal workers in Glasgow, Scotland, including office workers and carriers, who mostly deliver mail on foot. Each participant wore an activity tracker, and BMI, waist size, blood sugar, and cholesterol profile were measured throughout the study. These are all, of course, risk factors for heart disease.

Unsurprisingly, those who sat most of the day had a higher BMI, a larger waist, poor blood sugar control, and a less-than-ideal cholesterol profile compared to those who exercised more. In fact, according to the researchers’ model, for every hour of sitting during the day in excess of five hours, participants had a 0.2% increase in the likelihood of developing heart disease over their lifetime.

But those who walked a lot every day were the epitome of health. Workers who walked 15,000 steps or more daily (which is approximately seven miles) or stood upright for seven hours or more had a normal BMI, a mid-waist, and no signs of metabolic syndrome . Overall, their risk of heart disease was very low compared to those who walked less than 15,000 steps, assuming they were no longer at high risk for hereditary reasons. This study shows that our current estimate of 10,000 steps per day may be too conservative, and that 15,000 steps is the metric we should be aiming for if we are to prevent life-threatening heart disease.

Of course, any daily standing and walking activity lowers the risk of heart disease. 10,000 steps is definitely better than no steps at all. However, Dr. William Tigbe, who led the study, told the New York Times that 15,000 steps are more than realistic with a little effort. All you need to do is walk at a somewhat brisk pace for two hours. “And it can be done in parts,” says Tigbe. Walk 30 minutes before work, during lunch and after dinner. Throw in some quick 10 minute walks throughout the day and you are golden.

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