- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 28, 2017

It’s been widely accepted that adding 10,000 steps to your daily routine promotes health, but there’s little scientific study to support that assessment.

Now, a study published this month in the International Journal of Obesity offers a more definitive number for your step goal.

Researchers with the University of Warwick followed Scottish postal workers and found that those who walked their routes — tallying at least 15,000 steps — maintained a healthy weight, a trim waistline and a normal metabolism with no risk for cardiac disease.

The mail carriers spent about seven hours a day upright, walking about seven miles.

Meanwhile, desk workers spent an average of nine hours a day sitting and spent about seven hours sleeping. They showed an increase for metabolic syndrome, attributing to a rise in heart disease, stroke and diabetes, the researchers found. The more than 100 desk workers who were monitored generally were considered healthy nonsmokers.

The study’s lead researcher, Dr. William Tigbe, encourages people not to get discouraged about finding time to make walking a priority. Speaking with The New York Times, suggests a brisk, two-hour walk, or walking in 30-minute increments throughout the day.

“It takes effort our metabolism is not well-suited to sitting down all the time,” he said.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least 150 minutes of aerobic activity a week in addition to weight training. For Fitbit, the popular pedometer manufacturer, that advice translates to a brisk walk for 30 minutes.

“Obviously, the more exercise you do, the better it is for your heart health,” said Dr. Nieca Goldberg, director of the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health at NYU Langone Medical Center. “It’s important not to give the message, ‘only 15,000.’ If you are starting out and only getting 8,000 steps, that’s better than getting zero.”

Dr. Goldberg stressed that fitness seekers find a routine that works, no matter age or ailments: “Exercise is the foundation for cardiovascular health because it helps with multiple risk factors.”

Yet despite a commitment to be more physically active, all that work could be for naught if you’re still spending hours on end sitting — which is the case for many desk jobs. A 2015 study published by the Annals of Internal Medicine found that “prolonged sedentary time was independently associated with deleterious health outcomes regardless of physical activity.”

Fitness experts recommend moving throughout the day by taking breaks every 30 to 60 minutes to stand up, stretch, walk a loop — anything to break up the monotony of sitting.

It’s never too late to take up physical activity, with the American Heart Association recommending it as a rehabilitation measure preferable to a medication regiment.

“Cardiac rehabilitation is not prescribed often enough,” Dr. Daniel Forman, a geriatric cardiologist, said in a statement by the AHA last week. “When treating cardiac patients in their 70s, 80s and 90s, healthcare providers often stress medications and procedures without considering the importance of getting patients back on their feet, which is exactly what cardiac rehabilitation programs are designed to do.”

The AHA recommends a program that encompasses consultation and education on exercise, nutrition and management of stress and depression for cardiac patients in recovery. Even without access to an officially structured program, the AHA suggests that physicians tailor physical fitness programs in addition to medication for their patients.

• Laura Kelly can be reached at lkelly@washingtontimes.com.

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