Older adults who walk 3 or 4 miles daily see lower heart disease rates

More than 200 participants took part in the nonprofit Leap To Shine 5K Run/Walk Sept. 17, 2022, in New Jersey. Photo: Leap to Shine

Older adults who walk three to four miles a day – 6,000 to 9,000 steps – were found to be 40 to 50 percent less likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke than those who walk a mile (2,000 steps) a day, according to research published in the journal Circulation.

The findings were based on data from eight studies, involving 20,152 people 18 and older whose walking was measured by a device and whose health was tracked, on average, for more than six years.

For those 60 and older, the more steps taken, the lower their risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD). For young adults, however, the study found no link between steps taken and CVD risk.

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The probable reason for that, the researchers wrote, is that CVD “is a disease of aging” that generally is not diagnosable until risk factors such as high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes have progressed for years.

The researchers did not tabulate any link between distance walked and specific types of cardiovascular disease, such as heart failure or arrhythmia, but rather with heart disease overall. The study also found no additional benefit from a higher intensity, or pace, of walking.

Health benefits tied to walking, however, have been the focus of multiple studies and ongoing debate.

For instance, an earlier study from the same research group, published in the Lancet last March, found similar links between steps taken by older adults and a lower risk for death from any cause, as did a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine in September. That research, however, also found that a faster pace increased the risk reduction.

And, although the American Heart Association recommends 10,000 steps a day, it also notes that just a mile of walking can provide health benefits.

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