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10,000 daily steps: the pace makes a difference

Many experts say we should aim for 10,000 steps a day, or around 3-5 miles daily, depending on your gait. But why?

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — For those of us who made a resolution to get more exercise in this new year, getting in your daily 10,000 steps sounds like a good place to start, right? Health experts say yes, but new research shows that it’s not only the quantity of steps, but the quality that matters.

Ten-thousand steps – just about five miles. It’s a threshold that researchers say lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and dementia.

Now, a new study shows those who move at a faster pace —about 80 to 100 steps a minute – have more health benefits. In two recent papers, the researchers followed 78,000 people in the U.K. and found brisk walkers had a 35% lower risk of dying, a 30% lower risk of dementia, and a 25%t lower risk of heart disease or cancer — suggesting the pace may be the key.

Yale researcher and author F. Perry Wilson, M.D. was not involved in the new study, but he said there are important implications. First, he advises his patients to get up and get moving as much as they can.

“I don't want people to be discouraged looking at 10,000 and saying, ‘Oh my gosh, if I can't hit that, I shouldn't even try!’ because, really, the data suggests that any movement, any getting up and moving around is gonna reduce your risk in the long-term,” Dr. Wilson said.

He suggests people try to get their steps in clusters. Instead of a slow walk around the office throughout the day, build in time to take a 15 or even 30-minute walk at lunch.

Dr. Wilson recommends using social media to track your steps and those of your family and friends. Sometimes a little friendly competition can be an incentive.

For those who want to know if there are additional benefits to going over the 10,000 step mark, Dr. Wilson added that there are no published studies yet because very few people go over that threshold on a regular basis.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Ann Sterling at ann.sterling@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.

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