If you abide by the ‘10,000 steps a day’ rule, you may want to pick up the pace: new research from The International Journal of Obesity suggests the ideal number of steps per day may actually fall short of reducing your risk of heart disease.
U.K. researchers examined 111 Scottish postal workers, all of whom had varying levels of physical activity; some worked desk jobs, while others delivered mail on foot.
To begin the study, each postal worker was analyzed for health risk factors like coronary heart disease. A wide range of variables were measured – the workers’ blood sugar, cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, waist circumference, BMI, and more. After recording the data, the participants wore activity trackers around the clock for a week.
Some of the results were, well, unsurprising. The workers with desk jobs who were sedentary for the most part, had larger waistlines, more triglycerides, and lower HDL cholesterol (that’s the good cholesterol, FYI). The active postal workers displayed the opposite, obviously.
The most interesting data came from workers who walked 15,000 steps per day, or spent more than seven hours of their day upright. They displayed normal metabolic characteristics, yet no heightened risk for heart disease.
Despite the positive results, the study’s authors recognize that much activity isn’t feasible for most people that don’t walk as a part of their job: “The levels associated with zero risk factors in the current study … would be challenging and difficult to sustain unless incorporated into occupations,” they wrote.
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So that 10,000-step goal just got that much harder – 33% more difficult in fact. But remember: any amount of exercise you can manage is good exercise. Get creative – go for a walk in the morning, take a few laps around the block at lunch hour, or make time in the evening for a short workout. It’ll all add up.
“The key point is that our metabolism is not usually well suited to our relatively recent habit of prolonged sitting,” co-author William Tigbe, PhD, a clinical lecturer at the Warwick Medical School, told Health in an email. “As hunters and gatherers we walked for miles to acquire food. We now need to rebuild our daily routines in such a way that we can take several short walking breaks during prolonged sitting hours, and/or have a standing desk.”