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Dec 20, 2013 06:49 AM EST

Walking 2,000 Extra Steps a day Reduces Cardiovascular Diseases by 8 Percent, Study

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Walking 2,000 steps a day in addition to regular physical activity can help lower the risk of heart attacks and stroke by eight percent, according to a Leicester University study. Researchers said that the recommended physical activity is equivalent to 20 minutes of walking at moderate speed, a day.

Dr Thomas Yates of the Diabetes Research Unit at Leicester University and lead author of the study said that the health benefits gained from 4,000 extra steps (40 minutes of moderate intensity walk a day) is similar to that of consuming a statin per day.

"Doing 4,000 extra steps a day reduces your cardiovascular risk by about 16-20 per cent, which is the equivalent of taking a statin. However, a statin has side effects and only reduces cholesterol, whereas walking has a much bigger range of health benefits," Yates said, Daily Mail UK reports.

For the study, the researchers observed 9,306 adults from 40 countries with impaired glucose tolerances (IGT), who were at a greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease. They used a pedometer to record their walking activity (average number of steps taken per day over a week, both at the start of the study and one year later).

IGT affects about 344 million people worldwide (7.9 per cent of the adult population) and is projected to increase to 472 million by 2030, Reuters reports.

The researchers found that participants, who were already involved in some kind of physical activity at the start of the study, had lower risk of cardiovascular diseases. However, the risk was further reduced when people engaged in extra walking every day during the observation period.

Yates said one in eight people suffer from diabetes, putting them at an increased risk for heart disease and stroke.

"This is the first study to specifically quantify the extent to which change in walking behaviour can modify the risk of heart disease, stroke, and cardiovascular-related deaths. Our results provide novel evidence that changing physical activity levels through simply increasing the number of steps taken can substantially reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, such as heart attack and stroke," Yates said in a press release.

The health benefits of walking 2,000 or 4,000 extra steps were also observed in obese people and in those who were physically inactive earlier.

The study has been published in The Lancet Medical Journal.

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