2 days a week, lower cholesterol & heart attack risk? Study says so

If you are worried about your mortality risk since you cannot complete 8,000 steps (if you are over 60) or 10,000 steps (if you are younger than 60), every day, then it’s time to heave a sigh of relief. Because you can reduce your target and still stay in shape. A new study, conducted over 10 years and published in JAMA Network Open, has found out that people 20 years and above, who took 8,000 or more steps on just one or two days of the week, were 14.9 per cent less likely to die compared to people who were sedentary.

The study was led by Dr Kosuke Inoue of Japan’s Kyoto University, who collaborated with researchers from UCLA. It demonstrated that walking just one or two days is still associated with a significant decrease in cardiovascular and all-cause mortality, though each additional day of walking, emphasised by the study’s authors, gives greater benefits. Certainly, our fitness goals suddenly seem achievable as most of us can find time over the weekend to devote to our bodies. The study also described walking as a simple, low-impact, affordable mode of exercise that makes for an easy “step” towards a less sedentary lifestyle, a rising cause of obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, stroke, certain cancers, stress and anxiety.

The health benefits of walking have been proven beyond doubt by several studies since long and several guidelines have been formulated from time to time to suggest how much walking is needed to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. The American Heart Association (AHA) guidelines recommend either 150 minutes of brisk walk per week or 75 minutes per week of moderately high-intensity activities like jogging for optimally reducing cardiovascular risk. However, for busy professionals including healthcare professionals, it may be impossible to achieve this target due to lack of time. Therefore, it is well accepted that any amount of physical activity, even in small increments or intensity, can contribute towards reducing cardiovascular risk.

Regular walking not only burns excess calories but increases good cholesterol (HDL) levels and reduces bad cholesterol (LDL) as well as triglycerides. Apart from that, it promotes collateral vessel formation, thus improving circulation to the brain and heart. That’s how it reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke. Walking also activates our good hormones, reduces stress levels, improves immunity and reduces the risk of bone degeneration.