Precious Steps

I recently read a very interesting article that discussed the optimal amount of “steps” that we should walk in a day to improve our health. Most of us are familiar with the “10,000 steps everyday” recommendation. This recommendation arose from a Japanese team of researchers who back in 2000 found that walking 10,000 steps everyday can improve blood pressure readings in men with hypertension. Subsequent research has shown that the 10K step habit reduces risks of cardiovascular disease, benefits mental health, assists in weight loss and improves body composition.

However, a couple of new studies suggest that actually getting 15,000 steps or more per day may be a better daily goal. These studies from the reputable medical journals Lancet and International Journal of Obesity both link getting a greater amount of daily steps in to significantly reduced risks of cardiovascular disease. The study in Lancet looked at an isolated group of people who live in the Bolivian Amazon. These people spend roughly five to six hours a day on their feet, engaging in physical activity. This translates to approximately 15,500 to 17,000 steps per day for women and men respectively. Based on coronary calcium scores that measure coronary artery disease, their hearts were on average 28 years younger than American’s.

The other study looked at 111 postal workers in the UK. They all wore fitness trackers, and those that took 15,000 steps or more each day had almost no risk for cardiovascular disease. Reversely, every extra hour that a postal worker spent sitting during a typical workday was associated with an additional 0.8 inches of waistline and a heart disease risk of 0.2% greater.

Now, realistically, we are all aware of how much time it truly does take to achieve 15,000 steps in a day. It can equate to 3.5 hours per day, and most of us do not have that kind of spare time. My advice to you is get at least 5,000 steps a day and ideally 7,500 or more. Just move more. Get out of your chair and move often throughout the day. Do not sit in one spot longer than one hour without getting up and walking for a few minutes.

Steps in the woodsOne activity that I absolutely love and would encourage anyone to try is hiking. Three of my friends and I hike four to five times a week, both after work and on the weekends.   There are some amazing hiking trails in the Peoria area and now that we are moving into fall, the colorful scenery will be a perfect backdrop for this excellent form of exercise. I have found hiking to not only be a great way to get cardiovascular exercise, it also quickly racks up my step count and clears my mind, reducing stress and anxiety. Some of our favorite local hiking trails are Forest Park Nature Center, Grandview’s Pimiteoui, Robinson Park and Detweiller Park. We also enjoy Farmdale in East Peoria. I have included several pictures from our hikes this summer, and I hope the natural beauty in these pictures inspires you to get out in nature to hike and take those precious steps.

To Your Health,

Dr. Couri