Seniors: A new study, which was presented this week at an American Heart Association

Seniors: A new study, which was presented this week at an American Heart Association conference in Boston, found that simply walking an additional 500 steps, or a quarter mile, each day when you are over 70 lowers your risk of heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes within the next few years by 14%.

And the risk is 77% lower for people over 70 who walk an average of 4,500 steps per day than for those who walk less than 2,000 steps per day.

In fact, the study’s overall conclusion is that retired people should purchase a pedometer or step counter, track how much they move, and try to move more.

(In addition, despite the advertising, a pedometer doesn’t cost much either. I’ve been using a $15 wrist pedometer for years—the brand is no longer available on Amazon, but it looks like this $22 one—and it works great. It has a long battery life, can be recharged without a cable, and was more accurate than many of the more expensive models when I tested them.])

The study was very small. It covered 452 members who wore step counters for at least three days, for at least 10 hours, and afterward followed ups over the course of the following 3.5 years. The daily average of 3,500 steps was taken. 7.5% experienced a heart attack, stroke, or heart disease. However, among the people who made less than 2,000 strides each day, that figure was 12%.

That was just 3.5% of those who walked approximately 4,500 steps per day.

59% of the participants were women, and 20% were Black, with an average age of 78.

The study adds to the growing body of evidence that physical activity—even just walking—can effectively prolong our lifespan and improve our health.

These kinds of studies have the drawback of not answering many questions. That has to happen. It’s possible that only 452 people do not accurately represent the population. Long-term trends may not be evident from a test run conducted over a few days. And precisely what is being measured?

The obvious conclusion is that people who walk a lot are more likely to move a lot and be more active overall. They sit on the couch less often. That is beneficial to heart health, particularly as one gets older. In contrast, those who walk very little move very little overall, are sedentary, and they spend a lot of time on the couch. And this is bad for your heart.

The study’s most straightforward recommendation is to purchase a step counter, wear it every day, and keep track of how much you move around. As the saying goes, what gets measured gets managed. Also, just try to increase the numbers.

My cheapo step counter has a 10,000-step daily goal set for it, and it buzzes and tells me when I reach it. I might reduce that to 5,000 if I live to be 70.

I think it’s a good deal to buy a $22 gadget that could reduce my risk of having a heart attack or stroke by nearly 80 percent.

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