Women Over 60: Here's How Many Daily Steps You Need to Avoid Heart Failure

By   |  February 26, 2024

By Dennis Thompson HealthDay Reporter  |  Copyright © 2024 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

MONDAY, Feb. 26, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- Women might need a lot fewer daily steps to lower their risk of heart failure than they think, a new study suggests.

The usual recommendation is that people get 10,000 steps a day, but women ages 63 and older actually gain solid heart benefits from around 3,600 steps daily, researchers report Fev. 21 in the journal JAMA Cardiology.

On average, 3,600 steps a day at a normal pace was associated with a 26% lower risk of developing heart failure, results show.

“Accumulating 3,000 steps per day might be a reasonable target that would be consistent with the amount of daily activity performed by women in this study,” said lead researcher Michael LaMonte, a research professor of epidemiology and environmental health with the University of Buffalo’s School of Public Health and Health Professions.

For this study, researchers analyzed data from nearly 6,000 U.S. women ages 63 and older.

Participants wore a motion tracker on their hip for up to seven consecutive days, except for when in water. They averaged nearly 3,600 steps a day.

Among these women, more than 400 heart failure cases occurred during an average 7.5 years’ follow-up.

The risk of developing heart failure was 12% lower for each 70 minutes a day spent in light intensity exercises and 16% lower for each 30 minutes daily spent in moderate-to-vigorous intensity activity, results show.

By comparison, each hour and a half of sedentary time was associated with a 17% higher risk of experiencing heart failure.

Light physical activity included usual daily activities like chores around the house and caregiving, while moderate to vigorous activity included walking at a normal pace, climbing stairs or doing yard work.

The study also looked specifically at heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF), which occurs when the heart muscle becomes so thick and stiff that it holds less blood in its lower chambers. The heart beats with normal effectiveness, but it’s not able to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs.

“HFpEF is the most common form of heart failure seen in older women and among racial and ethnic minority groups, and at present there are few established treatment options, which makes primary prevention all the more relevant for HFpEF,” LaMonte said.

The study found that light and moderate physical activity reduced the risk of HFpEF in much the same way as heart failure overall. By the same token, long bouts of sedentary behavior increased risk of HFpEF.

The risk of heart failure, including HFpEF, became significantly lower at around 2,500 steps a day. At 3,600 steps, there was a 25% to 30% lower risk of heart failure and HFpEF.

“The potential for light intensity activities of daily life to contribute to the prevention of HFpEF in older women is an exciting and promising result for future studies to evaluate in other groups, including older men,” LaMonte said.

Researchers noted that women didn’t have to throw themselves into heavy exertion to gain benefits from movement.

“It appeared that intensity of stepping did not influence the lower risk of heart failure, as results were comparable for light intensity steps and for more vigorous steps,” LaMonte said.

More information

The American Heart Association has more on heart failure with preserved ejection fraction.

SOURCE: University of Buffalo, news release, Feb. 21, 2024