Harvard Heart Letter

Step up to better heart health

Research we're watching

Older adults can reap greater heart benefits from a daily stroll if they pick up the pace a bit, a study in the Nov. 4, 2015, Circulation reports.

Most exercise studies include predominantly younger adults. This new study is an exception. Researchers followed more than 4,200 people—whose average age was 73—for 10 years. They gathered information about the participants' health and their physical activity.

They found that adults who walked faster than 3 mph had a 50% lower risk of heart disease than those who walked at a pace of 2 mph. And those who walked an average of seven blocks per day or more were about one-third less likely to have heart disease compared with those who walked very little (five blocks or less per week). People who swam, biked, hiked, and did other leisure activities also had healthier hearts than those who didn't. The findings underscore the importance of doing light to moderate exercise later in life, the authors write.

To estimate your walking speed, count the number of steps you take in one minute. About 113 to 120 steps per minute corresponds to a speed of approximately 3 mph.