Some 70 years ago, the London Transit Workers Study told the world that moving at the rate of 10,000 steps a day, had a positive affect on heart health. By comparing the heart health of transit conductors who walked up and down bus aisles all day to transit office workers who mostly sat in offices all day, researchers found that the 10,000 steps a day moving conductors had lower levels of blood sugar and cholesterol, smaller waists and lower body mass indexes (BMIs) than the sedentary office workers.
There was little doubt that the findings of this 70 year old study were both valid and important. So valid and important, in fact, that activity trackers such as FitBit and others have been and continue to be set to that magic target of 10,000 steps per day.
Fast forward to today and another study on the affects of moving on heart health coming out of the British Isles. This time, researchers at the University of Warwick in England turned to postal workers in Glasgow, Scotland, who were between the ages of 40-60 and who had no personal history of heart disease. Again, some of the postal workers were out walking and delivering mail all day and some of the postal workers were sedentary sitting in the post office all day.
Results of this current study published in the International Journal of Obesity were that for every hour more than 5 of sitting/lying down, a .2% point was added to the likelihood of developing heart disease. And, almost any amount of standing and/or walking reduced heart disease risk factors such as waist size and BMI.
Most interesting, however, is that the greatest benefits of actually improving heart health came from exaggerated activity. Exaggerated activity is defined in this study as walking 15,000 steps per day and 3 or more hours a day of walking/standing! Though any kind of standing and moving helped reduce risks of heart disease, 15,000 steps per day and moving/standing 3 or more hours per day helped the most.
How to implement this daily 15,000 steps and 3 hours moving/standing? “Do it in bits,” says Dr. William Tigbe, the study’s lead researcher, “if you can’t do the whole thing at once…In bits, I mean 30 minutes before work, 30 minutes during lunch and several 10 minute walks either during the afternoon and/or after work.”
The bottom line according to Dr. Tigbe, “…our metabolism is not well suited to sitting down all the time…” Any ‘stepping’ time is better than none and 15,000 steps per day is optimal.