Stony Brook Medicine Health News

How Many Steps a Day for Heart Health?

Step trackers have gone mainstream in recent years, gaining popularity among people of all ages. They encourage us to find small ways to incorporate more movement into our days, and reinforce positive behavior changes. Sometimes, though, it can be confusing to know what number we should be striving for, and daunting to hit that goal. 

If you have a love-hate relationship with your step tracker, rest assured. Recent research published in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology found that walking about 2,300 steps (around 20 minutes) per day will help to reduce your risk of heart disease.  And that risk decreases with every extra step you take. 

How Many Steps Per Day?

Researchers analyzed over 226,000 people from 17 different studies around the world, looking at their walking habits and health factors during a 7-year period, on average. They found that the more you walk, the less risk you’ll have for life-threatening conditions like heart disease. 

Walking 2,337 steps per day reduced the risk of dying from heart-related diseases, and that risk decreased by another 7% with every extra 500 steps walked daily. 

Here’s some information on the analysis and its findings:

  • The average age of participants was 64 years old
  • 49% of participants were female
  • In adults 60 years old and up, there was a 42% reduction in risk of death when they walked between 6,000-10,000 steps per day
  • In adults younger than 60 years, there was a 49% reduction in risk of death when they walked between 7,000 and 13,000 steps per day

Why a Sedentary Lifestyle Increases Risk of Heart Disease

A slew of health issues are caused by a sedentary lifestyle. Moving your body throughout the day, even if for only a few minutes, will benefit every aspect of your physical and mental health, including heart function.  

A sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of heart disease in the following ways:

  • Reduced “good” cholesterol: Exercise helps boost levels of “good” HDL cholesterol, which protects heart health. 
  • Increased “bad” cholesterol: Too much “bad” LDL cholesterol can cause plaque buildup in the arteries, leading to heart attack or coronary artery disease. 
  • Increased blood pressure: Lack of exercise can contribute to hypertension (high blood pressure), which puts a strain on your heart. 
  • Weight gain: Being inactive contributes to obesity, a major risk factor for heart disease. 
  • Increased blood sugar: An inactive lifestyle can lead to the buildup of sugar in the blood, which can damage blood vessels and is linked to heart disease.
  • Inflammation: A sedentary lifestyle can cause increased inflammation, which promotes the growth of plaque and causes blood clots.  

Simple Ways to Increase Your Daily Steps

Aim to walk at least 30 minutes daily to reduce your risk of heart disease and other life-threatening health conditions. Making small changes to your daily routine will increase your steps and, in turn, improve your overall health. 

Here are some easy ways to increase your daily steps:

  1. Get a fitness tracker and start with a reasonable goal (such as 2,500 steps)
  2. Take regular short walking breaks every 30-60 minutes (even if they last only a minute)
  3. Move your body during work breaks (such as lunchtime)
  4. Take family walks after dinner in the evening
  5. Walk around your home or office while on the phone
  6. Park farther from entrances at the mall, grocery store, and other businesses
  7. Invite friends on a “walking date”

The key is to integrate more movement into your normal daily activities. It quickly adds up without intense effort and has many health benefits, beyond what you see on a scale. 

This article is intended to be general and/or educational in nature. Always consult your healthcare professional for help, diagnosis, guidance and treatment.