1,000 extra steps cuts risk of death by 28% in older women

Every extra 1,000 steps an older woman takes reduces her risk of death by 28 per cent. That is the finding of a new study carried out by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the US.

By studying the walking habits of some 16,732 women over the age of 60 for four years, experts were able to monitor the benefits. Each of the participants in the research wore a step counter and kept a record of their daily activity.

In a follow-up element of the study, the scientists then tracked the number of deaths from any cause four years after the initial collecting of data was complete. They discovered that those who took more steps in short periods of time lived longer.

Each increase of 1,000 steps saw a decrease in the chances of dying during the follow-up period by 28 per cent. The benefits levelled off once the participants reached a daily step count of 4,500.

The American Heart Association says that walking is one of the safest and easiest ways to improve heart health. It’s a great way to get fit, as it doesn’t require specialist equipment, can be done alone or with others, and offers improvement over time.

It counts as moderate exercise and the association recommends everyone should engage in 150 minutes of walking or similar activity a week. It’s easy to monitor how many steps an individual is taking daily, as many step counters and smartphone apps now exist, which can provide additional motivation.

Christopher C Moore, lead author of the study, said: “Technological advances made in recent decades have allowed researchers to measure short spurts of activity. With the help of wearable devices, more research is indicating that any type of movement is better than remaining sedentary.”

The study found the benefits were particularly profound when compared to participants who didn’t engage in any spells of uninterrupted walking. As participating in structured exercise regimes can get harder with age, walking is a good alternative.

It is less likely to result in serious injury or to be disrupted by an ongoing condition. As well as improving physical health, walking can have a positive effect on an individual’s mental wellbeing too.

If you’re looking for a care home for an elderly relative, then it might be worth taking the walking opportunities nearby into consideration. Extensive gardens and routes away from main roads may encourage them to take regular walks, keeping them fit and maintaining their independence.