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Counting steps boosts long term heart health

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People who use trackers like Fitbits to count their daily steps suffer fewer heart attacks, strokes and fractures for up to four years later, shows new research.

Those who took part in a 12-week step counter trial were still more active 12 months later, with the effect lasting up to four years.

Aged between 45 and 75, the group, who were overweight or obese were given pedometers, exercise diaries and had coaching to change their habits.

“Taking a regular daily walk can deliver long-term health benefits,” said Brunel University London’s Professor Christina Victor.

“It is easy to think that taking exercise is complicated and requires expensive equipment or membership of a gym. But our study shows that walking can be the foundation to a healthy later life.”    

Five London universities including Brunel teamed up with the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences to link 1297 people’s results from the walking trials to their doctor’s records. They found significantly fewer new ‘cardiovascular events’ and fractures in people who took part in the pedometer trials even four years later. About 60 people needed to do the extra walking to prevent a cardiovascular event and about 28 to prevent a fracture.

The researchers said just five extra minutes of walking a day would prevent large numbers of heart attacks, strokes and fractures. For every 1,000 people, there would be 15 fewer heart attacks and strokes and 35 fewer fractures over the study period.

“An extra half an hour walking a week is not much to ask but it can really reduce your risk of a heart attack, fracture or strokes,” said Professor Tess Harris who led the study at St George’s University of London. “It works out at just five minutes a day.”

“With each stage of these trials we have seen that simple short-term pedometer-based walking interventions can produce an increase in step-counts – and now we can see corresponding long-term health effects. This type of intervention can have a long-lasting effect and should be used more widely to help address the public health physical inactivity challenge.”

This study, Effect of pedometer-based walking interventions on long-term health outcomes: prospective 4-year follow-up of two randomised controlled trials using routine primary care data is published in the journal PLOS Medicine

 

Reported by:

Hayley Jarvis, Media Relations
+44 (0)1895 268176
hayley.jarvis@brunel.ac.uk