CVD benefits seen in people walking 6000 steps per day

By Melanie Hinze

A more practical target of 6000 steps per day could be promoted for patients aged over 60 years who are at risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), an Australian expert has told Medicine Today

Dr Christian Verdicchio, Chief Executive Officer of Heart Support Australia and Clinical Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Medicine and Health, The University of Sydney, was commenting on a new meta-analysis published in Circulation that found that among adults aged 60 years and older, taking between 6000 and 9000 steps per day was associated with a 40% to 50% lower risk of CVD compared with taking only around 2000 steps per day. 

The study authors investigated 20,152 adult participants (mean age 63.2 ± 12.4 years; 52% female) from eight  prospective studies. Each of the studies incorporated device-measured steps and participants were followed up for CVD events over a mean of 6.2 years. CVD events were defined as fatal and nonfatal coronary heart disease, stroke and heart failure. 

The authors found that adults aged 60 years and older had a progressively reduced risk of CVD events as their step count grew, with 6000 to 9000 steps associated with a 40 to 50% reduced risk compared with 2000 steps. Although step counts appeared to be associated with a continuing reduced risk of CVD, beyond 6000 steps the magnitude of this association did not appear to change significantly. Despite this inverse association in older adults, there was no association in younger adults.

Dr Verdicchio said that the important message in this paper was the number of steps needed to see a benefit in CVD risk.

‘This has always been the hot debate of whether 10,000 steps per day is too high,’ he said. ‘In this study, and what we are now seeing in older patients who are at risk of developing CVD, achieving any type of exercise and physical activity reduces the risk of CVD,’ he added.

He said the 40 to 50% reduction in CVD risk seen in this study was a huge reduction. ‘This is an important target for GPs, cardiologists and allied health practitioners to set a more practical goal of 6000 steps for these patient groups who are at risk of CVD,’ he said.

‘As I always like to say, any exercise or physical activity is better than none, but patients really need to be counselled on the importance of aerobic exercise and physical activity to reduce their CVD risk and improve their long-term outcomes,’ he added. 

Circulation 2023; 146: 00-00; doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.122.061288.