You Might Reduce Your Cardiovascular Risks by Walking More and Sitting Less
By Wendy Bumgardner | Reviewed by Richard N. Fogoros, MDUpdated May 23, 2017
If you own a pedometer or fitness band, it likely has a suggested goal of 10,000 steps per day. But would you be smarter to set the goal at 15,000 steps per day if you want to reduce your risks of heart disease and metabolic syndrome? A 2017 study of postal workers in Scotland suggests that the higher number is better, especially if you also spend less time sitting.
15,000 Steps per Day Show Benefits
The study of non-smoking postal workers in Glasgow, Scotland matched 55 office workers who had sedentary jobs with 56 delivery workers who were on their feet most of the workday.
Each wore a sophisticated pedometer for seven days that tracked their steps as well as their walking speed and whether they were standing or sitting. They were tested to see what their indicators were of coronary heart disease risk.
The study found that those who spent more time sitting had a significantly higher risk for coronary heart disease, including larger waist size, more elevated triglycerides, and lower HDL cholesterol. The postal workers who had zero risk factors were those who walked more than 15,000 steps per day or spent more than 7 hours a day standing or walking as opposed to sitting.
How Far Are 15,000 Steps?
In 15,000 steps you would walk 6.5 to 7 miles (10.5 to 11 kilometres) depending on your stride length. At a brisk, continuous walking pace it takes 2 hours or a less. At a more leisurely pace and with starts and stops as would be encountered by mail carriers, it would be about 3 hours a day of walking.
This amount of walking at work was noted as typical for nurses, restaurant servers, and warehouse workers in previous studies. But the average sedentary office worker may only log 1000 to 3000 steps during the workday.
The calories burned in 15,000 steps depends on your weight and stride length, but it’s around 500 calories for a 130-pound person and 600 for a 160-pound person.
That can make a difference in your calorie balance if you control your eating, and it can assist in weight loss or maintaining your weight.
Does This Mean 10,000 Steps Isn’t Enough?
If you’ve been working hard to achieve 10,000 steps each day, don’t think it is for nought. The risks of metabolic syndrome went down in proportion to the amount of Activity each day. It’s just that in this study, the best risk reduction was seen at 15,000 steps or greater.
It’s also important to note that spending less time sitting was shown to reduce risks. It is possible to get 10,000 steps while sitting the rest of the time at work or at home. Many people ensure they get in enough time walking, running, or doing a gym workout to make their step goal for the day. But the time they spend sitting can be working against them and raising their health risks despite those bouts of Activity.
Stop Sitting, Start Stepping?
The study found that less sitting was associated with a smaller waist size as well as a lower risk of coronary heart disease. While the sample size was small, that ties in with other research that links sedentary behaviour with increased risks for cardiovascular disease and diabetes mellitus. Reducing sitting time and replacing it with a couple of minutes of Activity every half hour or hour can help, as can spending more time doing a low-level activity such as slowly walking while using a treadmill desk.
Check How Far You Walk Each Day
If you want to boost your step count, start with where you are right now. You can count your steps using a pedometer or fitness band, or use the pedometer function built into your smartphone. There are several different pedometer apps that can help you access it. For example, if you use an iPhone, search for Activity in the Health Data app to see your daily steps taken while you carried your phone. If you have an Android phone, the Google Fit app is likely already installed, and you can check it for your step count.
Within that day, were there hours you were less active?
One goal to reduce inactivity is to walk 250 steps each hour, which is two to three minutes of Activity. Spot the waking hours where you were least active and think of how you can build at least a little more activity into that time.
How Can You Walk 15,000 Steps per Day Without an Active Job?
Once you see what your intermediate steps are on workdays as well as weekends, you can start to make changes to increase them. Start with where you are, such as an average of 6,000 steps per day on workdays. Aim to add 2,000 more steps per day to that total most days. That is about an extra mile and 15 to 20 minutes of walking distributed throughout the day.
- Take at least 250 steps each hour, or 100 steps every 30 minutes throughout the day. This is a movement goal built into the newer models of Fitbit and Garmin fitness bands to help people break up stretches of inactivity. Over the course of an 8-hour workday and commute time, those extra bouts can add up to an additional 1,000 to 2,000 steps.
- Spend work breaks moving. You will also need to think about spending your work breaks walking so you can log 10 to 30 minutes of more continuous exercise at a time. If you don’t want to break a sweat at work, these can be easy walks, perhaps even having walking meetings with colleagues or strolling with a fellow employee.
- Make part of your commute on foot. Sitting in the car, or on the bus or train is idle sitting time. Is there a place you can park, or a stop you can use, so you get in extra minutes walking? Is it possible to walk to work and ride home, or vice versa?
- Look for active ways to spend at more of your evening. If you usually spend the evening sitting, how can you be more active? You can start by continuing to ensure you get at least 250 steps each hour. Do a little light housecleaning and decluttering. Go for a quick walk around the block. Be the one who takes out the trash, walks the dog, or goes to get the mail.
- Do more tasks on foot. If you need something from the store or to mail a letter, can you go on foot instead of by car?
- Find an active hobby or sport. Golfing, birding, and playing Pokemon Go on foot are just some of the activities that will log plenty of steps while you are having fun.
These tactics can add 2000 to 4000 more steps to your day. Start with that and after you have a week of consistently achieving your new goal, you can then look for even more ways to build in extra Activity.
Add Moderate-to-Vigorous Intensity Exercise Workouts
The minimum amount of moderate-intensity exercise you need to reduce health risks and help maintain weight is 30 to 60 minutes per day, most days of the week. This is in addition to the steps you take at a leisurely pace. For weight loss and to prevent regaining weight, the goal should be 30 to 90 minutes per day, most days of the week.
These will be sessions of brisk walking, running, shooting hoops, or other Activity. Here is where you’ll log 5,000 to 12,000 steps. You can include cycling time, although you’ll have to convert it to an equivalent number of steps.
Many fitness bands and apps track whether you are exercising at enough intensity for the session to be counted as moderate or vigorous. Making the goal of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity or 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise each day can ensure you are getting the minimum needed to reduce health risks.
A Word From Verywell
Numbers help you focus on a goal, and one study doesn’t prove that 15,000 is a magic number. If you’ve been achieving 10,000 steps per day but would like to reduce your health risks further, look for ways to reduce your sitting time and ensure you get enough moderate-to-vigorous exercise each day. If you struggle to get to 10,000, find a way to add 2,000 steps to your daily average. Every step you take is a step in the right direction.
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