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Want to maintain fitness? Walk faster and sit less

Want to maintain fitness? Walk faster and sit less

Walking a smaller number of steps with greater intensity can prove just as beneficial as aiming for a daily target of 10,000 paces, according to a new study.

Research undertaken by Oregon State University analysed data from 3,388 participants aged 20 and older in a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. In addition to minute-by-minute step data, the researchers looked at relationships between step-defined physical activity and various cardiometabolic risk factors - such as waist circumference, blood pressure, fasting glucose, insulin, and cholesterol levels, as well as body mass index.

Among male participants, only the top one-fifth had a median of more than 10,000 steps per day. Among women, the top quintile's median was 9,824.

Beyond just total step counts, the research looked at daily "peak 30-minute cadence" - the average number of steps in a participant's most vigorous 30 minutes, which weren't necessarily consecutive minutes.

Among all survey participants, only the top quintile had a median peak cadence - 96 steps per minute - that was in line with accepted physical activity guidelines of 30 minutes a day at 100 steps per minute.

Nevertheless, analysis across all quintiles showed a strong relationship between walking more briskly as opposed to less briskly - and favourable numbers in the cardiometabolic risk categories.

The same held true for number of steps whether above or below the 10,000-step threshold, while higher percentages of sedentary time were linked to less-favourable values in several risk factors.

"Some physical activity is better than none, and typically more is better than less," said Assistant Professor John Schuna Jr. "When it comes to steps, more is better than fewer, and steps at higher cadences for a significant amount of time are beneficial. A good target for healthy adults is 150 minutes per week spent at 100 or more steps per minute. And in terms of time spent sedentary, less is better - you want to spend as little time not moving as possible within reason."

The findings were published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

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