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Achieving your daily step goal really prevents disease, study claims

Why it’s really important to take your daily steps: Research shows that getting at least 8k a day reduces the risk of high blood pressure, sleep apnea and depression

  • Experts asked 6,000 participants to wear Fitbits for at least 10 hours a day
  • The study, which recorded the participants’ health status, lasted four years
  • Analysis showed benefits from taking more than 8,200 steps a day

Some days it can feel all too easy to stay in bed or lounge on the couch.

But meeting your daily step goal really does work to prevent major illnesses, according to new research.

A team from Vanderbilt University Medical Center asked more than 6,000 participants to wear Fitbit activity trackers for at least 10 hours a day.

The study lasted four years and during this time the participants’ health data was also recorded.

A team from Vanderbilt University Medical Center asked more than 6,000 participants to wear Fitbit activity trackers for at least 10 hours a day

Analysis found that taking more than 8,200 steps a day — the equivalent of walking about four miles — protected against obesity, sleep apnea, high blood pressure and major depressive disorder, among others.

The results also suggested that overweight people can reduce their risk of becoming obese by 64 percent if they increase their daily steps from 6,000 to 11,000.

As the number of steps increased, the risk for most conditions decreased.

However, the risk of hypertension and diabetes did not decrease further after the participants reached about 8,000-9,000 steps per day.

The authors said that people who wear Fitbits tend to be more active than the average adult.

But ‘the fact that we were able to detect robust associations between steps and … disease in this active sample suggests that even stronger associations may exist in a more sedentary population’.

The team said their findings represent a necessary first step toward developing personalized activity prescriptions.

They wrote in the journal Nature Medicine: ‘We examined the association between the number of steps and the intensity of the whole spectrum of human disease using commercial activity monitors linked to a person’s electronic health records.

‘We identified consistent and statistically significant associations between activity levels and incident diabetes, hypertension, gastroesophageal reflux disease, major depressive disorder, obesity and sleep apnea.

Taking more steps each day was associated with a lower risk of developing these chronic diseases.

‘Higher step counts were associated with protection against obesity in a high-risk population.’

Polls show that more than a quarter of UK adults now own some kind of exercise tracker, and a third of those who own it use it every day.

The numbers are similar in the US.

In this study, the data showed that participants took an average of 7,731 steps per day.

In 2018, Public Health England and the Royal College of GPs said people should focus on brisk walking rather than just counting steps to improve their health.

As part of an effort to get adults to do more moderate-intensity physical activity, they said just 10 minutes of brisk walking a day could reduce their risk of premature death by up to 15 percent.

HOW MUCH EXERCISE YOU NEED, ACCORDING TO THE NHS

To stay healthy, adults ages 19 to 64 should try to be active on a daily basis and should do the following:

  • at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, such as cycling or brisk walking per week and
  • strength exercises on 2 or more days a week that target all major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms)

Or:

  • 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, such as running or a game of singles tennis every week and
  • strength exercises on 2 or more days a week that target all major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms)

Or:

  • a mix of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity each week – for example 2 x 30 minutes of running plus 30 minutes of brisk walking corresponds to 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity and
  • strength exercises on 2 or more days a week that target all major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms)

A good rule is that 1 minute of vigorous activity provides the same health benefits as 2 minutes of moderate activity.

One way to get to your recommended 150-minute weekly exercise is to do 30 minutes on 5 days each week.

All adults should also break long periods of sitting with light activity.

Source: NHS

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