UAE: 2,000 steps a day can lower your risk of premature death

You could keep dementia, cardiovascular disease and even cancer at bay by walking those many steps — but at a certain frequency and pace

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Ashwani Kumar

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Published: Mon 27 Feb 2023, 12:47 PM

Walking as little as 2,000 steps a day — but at a certain frequency and pace — can help lower your risk of dementia, cardiovascular disease, cancer and even premature death, a study has found.

According to research published in the Jama Neurology and Jama Internal Medicine, researchers found that for every 2,000 steps, the risk of heart disease, cancer, and premature death can decrease by 10 per cent, peaking at 10,000 steps each day.

A Dubai-based healthcare expert is urging community members to start walking more while trying to hit 10,000 steps a day in a phased manner.

As part of Abu Dhabi 360, the new community-wide wellness programme launched by Abu Dhabi Sports Council, Michelle Champlin, chief podiatrist at Dubai Podiatry Centre, underlined that the longer an individual walks, the better the blood flow for the entire body.

The report revealed how walking at a faster pace, or upping the intensity of your walk, such as power walking, was found to have health benefits too. Brisk walkers – between 80-100 steps per minute – had a 35 per cent lower risk of dying, a 25 per cent lower chance of developing heart disease or cancer, and a 30 per cent lower risk of developing dementia, compared with those whose average pace was slower.

Talking about pace and intensity, Michelle said: “Whether you are walking for health, fitness or even weight loss, the pace of your walk will be determined by individual capabilities. For example, a brisk walking pace can range from 10 to 15 minutes per kilometre, or from 5km/hr to 7.5km/hr. At this pace, breathing should be noticeably harder, but you should still be able to speak in full sentences. If your cardiovascular is at a good level, then a 15-minute pace might be considered a light-intensity exercise. It may take only 10 minutes to walk 1km at a quicker pace.”

Michelle stressed on the significance of keeping a track on progress being made while walking.

“When you get to the 1,000m mark on the walking track, check the time again. This will tell you how many minutes it took you to walk 1km. As you get more accustomed to walking you may notice the same distance will take less time to complete, so you may want to increase the walking distance by 500-1,000m. I recommend walking the same distance 5 times in a row before increasing the distance. This will allow the muscles and tendons to adjust to the added activity as well as the skin on the feet.”

What does this mean for the UAE?

Taking 10,000 steps a day – roughly 7-8km, depending on a person’s stride, has become a common health and fitness goal, but many individuals in the UAE tend to lead sedentary lifestyles, making it a challenge for individuals to meet the daily recommended steps count. This is down to a higher number of desk jobs as well as urbanisation and the infrastructure of some communities.

But there is hope. Inactive individuals can still take smaller steps towards good health, to gradually increase their step count. The recent research explains how fewer steps can still help towards decreasing health risks. For example, 9,800 steps can lower the risk of dementia by 50 per cent and taking 3,800 steps a day lowers it by 25 per cent.

“Carving out time to walk for exercise can be limited but a few small tweaks to your social and family life can make a huge difference. For example, next time you invite your friends over for a coffee, suggest ‘walking and talking’, as opposed to sitting and talking for an hour or so. Before you know it, you would have hit your daily step count without even realising it – and you will find that your friends will take inspiration from you,” Michelle said.

“Try to include your family. Make yourself a good role model by going for a long, family walk before dinner. After a time, this will naturally become part of your daily family routine, and everyone will feel better for it.”

Michelle recommended that people discover their local walks and implement longer walks on the weekend when they have more time.

“Abu Dhabi and the UAE have taken the brilliant initiative to incorporate health and fitness areas into our neighbourhoods for the health and wellbeing of all communities. We have a plethora of safe walking areas perfect for beginners, intermediate, and more advanced walkers. These visually beautiful and interesting walks are great ways to increase our step counts, such as the Abu Dhabi Corniche, Al Maryah Island, and Al Zahiyah to Yas Marina Circuit.”

With great walks just on our doorstep, the experts from Abu Dhabi 360 are encouraging everyone in the emirate to walk at least 30 minutes per day and kick-start their journey towards whole-person wellness.

Community members can look forward to several upcoming events, all of which will be available on the Abu Dhabi 360 app at www.MyAbuDhabi360.ae.

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