We’ve all heard the widespread recommendation of hitting 10,000 steps per day for optimal health, but some groups — such as women over age 60 — may not need that many.

That’s according to a new study published in JAMA Cardiology, which found that women between the ages of 63 and 99 only needed an average of 3,600 steps per day to reduce their heart failure risk by 26%.

“[This was] after accounting for differences in age, race and ethnicity, and clinical factors known to increase one’s risk of heart failure,” said lead author Michael J. LaMonte, PhD, research professor of epidemiology and environmental health in UB’s School of Public Health and Health Professions, in a statement to Fox News Digital. 

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“That is far fewer than the often targeted 10,000 steps per day,” he noted.

Researchers from University at Buffalo in New York observed 6,000 U.S. women between ages 63 and 99, gathering data about their physical activity, sedentary time and heart health.

During a period of 7½ years, there were 407 cases of heart failure in the group.

The risk was found to be 12% to 17% lower for every 70 minutes of light activity (housework, self-care and other daily tasks) and 30 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity activity (climbing stairs, doing yard work, walking or jogging).

For every 90 minutes of sedentary time, the heart failure risk increased by 17%, the researchers found.

To measure their physical activity, the participants wore a tracking device on their hips for a week.

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“Even the lighter-intensity activities of daily living and walking seem to be associated with a lower risk of heart failure in older women,” said LaMonte.

“So, our data suggest that physical activity amounts and intensity below what’s currently recommended in public health guidelines could be beneficial for heart failure prevention in later life.”

The study evaluated risk for two different types of heart failure, including heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF).

With this condition, also known as diastolic heart failure, the heart muscle contracts as it should, but the left ventricle remains stiff and prevents the heart from filling properly with blood, according to the American Heart Association’s website.

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“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,” LaMonte told Fox News Digital.

“This type of heart failure is increasingly common in women, older adults and racial-ethnic minority groups,” Lamonte told Fox News Digital. 

“Unfortunately, there presently are no established therapies to treat this heart failure subtype, making its prevention that much more important. The relevance only increases with population aging, as women are expected to outnumber men in the 80+ group over the coming decades.”

LaMonte added, “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.”

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The risk of heart failure, including HFpEF, became “significantly lower” at around 2,500 steps per day, according to the release. 

The risk dropped by 25% to 30% at the 3,600-step mark.

There were some limitations of the study, the lead researcher noted.

“The observational study design requires caution against interpreting causation on the basis of associational results,” LaMonte told Fox News Digital. 

“We only had a single accelerometer measure, and activity habits could change during follow-up, so repeat measures would be preferable.”

The researchers also did not have newer biomarkers of cardiac injury and volume overload, he said, which would have resulted in richer analysis of activity that may lower heart failure risk.

“Our cohort is older, postmenopausal women, so other studies need to confirm these results in men and younger individuals,” LaMonte said.

Dr. Bradley Serwer, a cardiologist and chief medical officer at VitalSolution, a Cincinnati, Ohio-based company that offers cardiovascular and anesthesiology services to hospitals, was not involved in the study but noted the importance of physical activity for heart health.

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Regular exercise can help improve cardiovascular fitness by improving peripheral circulation, improving vascular tone, and controlling comorbidities such as high blood pressure, diabetes and hypercholesterolemia,” he told Fox News Digital.

“It is important to stay active both mentally and physically, especially over the age of 50.”

Ideally, senior women should aim for a mixture of aerobic and weight-lifting exercises on a regular basis, Serwer said.

For those who are over 50, he warned that high-impact exercises, such as running, may lead to overuse injuries. 

“Low-impact activities such as cycling, walking, swimming or yoga can be highly beneficial,” he recommended.

For those who haven’t exercised in a while, Serwer said it’s important to see a doctor to make sure they are healthy enough to start a fitness program. 

“Once it’s determined you are healthy enough for exercise, I recommend starting slow and gradually building up,” he said. “Sometimes it is helpful to hire a personal trainer or join a gym with an exercise physiologist.”

LaMonte added, “A simple message for older adults is, ‘Sit less and move more.'”

Moving around the home, caregiving and walking are beneficial sources of movement for cardiovascular health in later life, he noted.

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“For those capable and interested in doing moderate-intensity activities, greater benefit is likely gained — but movement doesn’t have to be fancy or planned,” he said.

“Just try to be active in daily life and try to interrupt prolonged sitting with a little walking.”

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