[ skip to content ]


While 10,000 steps a day is still a good minimum for a healthy heart, a new study by an Old Dominion University professor shows 5,000 steps taken at a run will deliver more than double the benefit in half the distance.

According to the study, due to be published in the American Journal of Cardiology in January 2006, "Vigorous intensity exercise has been shown to more effectively increase aerobic fitness than moderate intensity exercise, suggesting that the former may confer greater cardio protective benefits."

"The common goal has been to get sedentary people to do anything at all. So the message that you take 10,000 steps for a healthy heart is all people talked about," said David Swain, professor of exercise science at Old Dominion University. "Where it got off track was that the real, substantial, cardiac benefit comes from more vigorous exercise. You really do have to make that effort to get the greater benefit."

Swain conducted the study with Barry A. Franklin, who works at both the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program and Exercise Laboratories of the William Beaumont Hospital and Wayne State University School of Medicine in Michigan. Franklin is also a past president of the American College of Sports Medicine.

The study does not focus on weight-loss, but does discuss burning calories according to Swain who emphasized, "1,000 calories is 1,000 calories, no matter how you burn them, but it isn't the same if what you are trying to do is improve your heart health. It matters if those 1,000 calories were burned in a long walk or a short run."

The study, which used both epidemiological studies and clinical trials, reveals that burning 1,000 calories by walking reduces one's cardiac risk factor by 30 percent, while burning those same calories running, or in some other intense workout, decreases the risk by 60 percent.

Swain was chosen by Barry to take part in this study after Swain's earlier research on measurement of CO2 Reserve, an improved method doctors now use to prescribe cardiovascular and aerobic exercise for maximum safety and benefit to heart patients. Swain's CO2 Reserve standard was adopted as the national standard by the American College of Sports Medicine 2000.

"If it's just weight loss you're after this study won't make much difference to your life," Swain said. "But if you are serious about cardio fitness and health benefits, you need to be more intense about your exercise."

This article was posted on: November 28, 2005

Old Dominion University
Office of University Relations

Room 100 Koch Hall Norfolk, Virginia 23529-0018
Telephone: 757-683-3114

Old Dominion University is an equal opportunity, affirmative action institution.