27 Sep Taking more steps and being physically active may lead to longer life
Mark A. Mahoney
Regular physical activity is one of the most important behaviors people can do to improve or maintain good health. Being physically active provides substantial health benefits for many conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and several cancers, as well as improving quality of life.
Walking is one of the safest and easiest ways to improve fitness and health including heart health. The American Heart Association’s fitness guidelines for adults recommend at least 150 minutes per week of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity, or a combination of both.
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Highlight of findings from two recent studies are provided here relevant to physical activity’s benefits for cardiovascular health with complete references provided at the end of this column for more detailed information.
Steps per day study
Steps per Day and All-Cause Mortality in Middle-aged Adults in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study:
In this cohort study of Black and white middle-aged women and men, higher daily steps were associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality. Adults taking at least 7,000 steps per day, compared with those taking fewer than 7,000 steps per day, had approximately 50% to 70% lower risk of mortality.
Findings: In this cohort study of 2110 adults with a mean follow-up of 10.8 years, participants taking at least 7,000 steps per day, compared with those taking fewer than 7000 steps per day, had a 50% to 70% lower risk of mortality. There was no association of step intensity with mortality regardless of adjustment for step volume.
Meaning: This cohort study found that higher daily step volume was associated with a lower risk of premature all-cause mortality among Black and white middle-aged women and men.
Conclusions: This cohort study among Black and white men and women found that taking at least 7,000 steps per day during middle adulthood was associated with a lower risk of mortality. There was no association of step intensity with mortality. Improving physical activity levels in the least active segment of the population by encouraging increasing steps per day may be associated with lower mortality risk.
Duration of sports study
U-Shaped Association Between Duration of Sports Activities and Mortality: Copenhagen City Heart Study:
As part of the prospective Copenhagen City Heart Study, 8,697 healthy adults completed a comprehensive questionnaire about leisure-time sports activities. Duration (minutes per week) of leisure-time sports activities was recorded for tennis, badminton, soccer, handball, cycling, swimming, jogging, calisthenics, health club activities, weightlifting, and other sports.
The primary end point was all-cause mortality, and the median follow-up was 25.6 years.
Conclusions: A U-shaped association was observed between weekly duration of leisure sports activities and cardiovascular and all-cause mortality, with lowest risk for those participating in 2.6 to 4.5 weekly hours, being consistent across subgroups. Participation in sport activities should be promoted, but the potential risk of very high weekly hours of sport participation should be considered for inclusion in guidelines and recommendations.
Useful takeaways from the two studies
The two studies do provide some hope for those of us desiring to live longer and well:
- Both studies pinpoint the sweet spot for activity and longevity at somewhere around 7,000 to 8,000 daily steps or about 30 to 45 minutes of exercise most days. Doing more may marginally improve your odds of a long life, Dr. O’Keefe said, but not by much, and doing far more might, at some point, be counterproductive.
- Accumulate and measure your activities “in whatever way works for you,” said Dr. Paluch. “Step counting may work well for someone who does not have the time to fit in a longer bout of exercise. But if a single bout of exercise fits best with your lifestyle and motivations that is great as well. The idea is just to move more.”
As more and more evidence accumulates the benefits accrued from being more active definitely hold promise for living a longer life while increasing the possibilities for better health.
Let’s all work on being more active taking into account our limitations and checking with your health care provider before proceeding with any specific activity if you have questions.
An additional study:
According to preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology, Prevention, Lifestyle & Cardiometabolic Health Conference 2021 taking more steps daily either all at once or in shorter spurts, may help you live longer. A description of the study can be accessed at: sciencedaily.com.
Mark A. Mahoney, Ph.D. has been a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist for over 35 years and completed graduate studies in Nutrition & Public Health at Columbia University. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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