Several years ago, a study investigating the impact of daily steps on our overall health led to the widespread idea that we should aim to take at least 10,000 steps each day. However, there has since been skepticism amongst hospital based physicians and others in the medical community about the actual benefit of this exercise, with people pointing to all the different ways 10,000 steps can be achieved and the fact that 10,000 steps walked slowly in spurts throughout a busy day may not have the same cardiovascular benefits as 10,000 steps that includes a 30 minute run.
To better understand the true relationship between step count and health, researchers have continued to delve further into this issue and have shown that 10,000 daily steps as a gold standard is not necessarily a hard-and-fast rule for promoting health. For instance, some recent research from Brigham Young University showed this year that people can benefit from just 7,500 steps each day. Other research has pointed to the inability of 10,000 steps to prevent problematic weight gain unless the step count is coupled with dietary strategies.
The effects of step count on blood pressure provides one way to assess the impact of step count on cardiovascular health. New research, which will be presented virtually at the American College of Cardiology Scientific Session this weekend, has shown that taking more steps is associated with lower blood pressure, even when results are adjusted for age, sex, family structure, and the amount of time that an Apple Watch is worn.
This study included over 600 people from the electronic Framingham Heart Study who measured their blood pressure from home using the Nokia Withings cuff and were followed for an average of 280 days. Results showed that for every 1,000 steps more that study participants moved, they displayed a 0.45 mm Hg reduction in systolic blood pressure and a 0.36 mm Hg reduction in diastolic blood pressure.
A critical question, however, is why it is that steps are associated with lower blood pressure. The researchers found that when they adjusted their model to account for body mass index (BMI), the results were no longer significant. They therefore conclude that one possibility of the apparent benefits of increasing step count on blood pressure and overall health is that moving more can help with weight control, thereby improving health. More research into the combinatorial effects of step count and diet on health will likely help to clarify how to best use movement and nutrition to achieve desirable health outcomes.