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Walk 10km a Day to Protect Your Heart

Better lace up and get moving.

If you think a modest amount of walking is good enough to protect your ticker, you may want to clear more room in your schedule—or at least get a standing desk if you spend your workday parked on your butt. That’s from a new study from the U.K., which found that a whole lot of walking is necessary to protect yourself from the heart risks associated with a sedentary job.

Researchers gave 111 Scottish postal workers activity monitors for a week, dividing the group between office workers and mail delivery people. Only those who were healthy non-smokers with no history of heart attack, stroke, heart disease, hypertension or diabetes were included.

Those with desk jobs had bigger waist circumferences as well as higher risk of cardiovascular disease compared to those who hoofed it all day. Plus, for every additional hour of sitting past the 5-hour mark, their bad cholesterol (LDL) increased and good cholesterol (HDL) decreased. But there did seem to be an antidote: People who walked more than 15,000 steps per day—about 7 to 8 miles—or spent more than 7 hours a day standing had the lowest risk factors for heart disease compared to more sedentary types.

Now, the researchers do acknowledge that maintaining that level of activity would be challenging for those who don’t have regular exercise as part of their jobs. But getting to zero risk factors seems like an incentive to incorporate more movement into everyday life.

If you can’t fit in a bunch of exercise into each day, try to take small activity breaks, like by walking on your lunch or taking the stairs to a meeting. And when you do have extra time—say, like the weekend—make sure to schedule exercise into your plans. In fact, weekend warriors, or those who fit all their recommended exercise into one or two days a week, were 30 percent less likely to die over an 18-year follow up than those who did not exercise at all, as we recently reported.