Step right this way: Walking your way to optimal heart health

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Over the past few years, conventional wisdom has set the benchmark for fitness at getting at least 10,000 steps a day. Now, a new study is pushing that goal further out. The new standard for optimal heart health is 15,000 steps a day, according to research published by The International Journal of Obesity.

The study looked at Scottish postal workers who walked their routes delivering mail and compared them to sedentary workers at the post office. “They found that if you got 15,000 steps a day, or walked about 7 miles, heart health was improved, waist size was smaller and body mass index was lower,” said Dr. Eric Warren, a family and sports medicine specialist at Novant Health Waxhaw Family & Sports Medicine. “The study showed that that range was a better goal than 10,000 steps.”

Some people struggle with just reaching the 10,000 threshold. For some, it will mean they have to push themselves just a little more and make more adjustments in their level of activity. For others, it’s going to be a significant challenge. “They are going to have to make real lifestyle changes or face the consequences,” Warren said. “If you’re not moving enough in your daily life, don’t be surprised later that your heart health is poor and that your waist size is larger.”

Even if you can’t make 15,000 steps a day part of regular routine right away, Warren suggests that you gradually try to reach that goal. Try to go for 10,000 steps. Once you’ve met that goal for a while, then aim for 12,500 and so forth.

“Our bodies are made to move so some movement is better than no movement,” he said. “The postal workers in the study weren’t running to deliver mail so their heart rates weren’t going up, but the movement helped. Some activity is better than no activity.”

Warren has some suggestions to step up your game:

  • Wear an activity tracker. They keep you honest and some have features that track your heart rate and your sleep as well.
  • Keep a pair of comfortable shoes at your office. It’s a good way to take a walking break as comfortable as possible when your schedule allows.
  • Take the stairs and park as far from your office entrance as possible.
  • Find a walking partner or form a walking group.
  • Have walking meetings.
  • Take a walk after dinner. Bring your kids with you. Get outside and enjoy nature.

Remember, every steps counts!

How’s your heart health? Novant Health has launched a community-wide campaign called the 10,000 Healthy Hearts Challenge with a goal to educate 10,000 people about their heart health by 2018. Take the online heart health risk assessment, which analyzes cardiovascular risk factors, such as blood pressure, cigarette smoking, diabetes and body mass index. Then, tag five friends on social media using #NHHealthyHearts to spread the word. Once you accept the challenge, look for helpful wellness tips, recipe ideas and stress management reminders sent to your inbox to manage your heart health.

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