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Wearable fitness monitors (think Fitbit) provide a “motivation alert” as you approach the magic number of 10,000 steps per day, with a “celebration” of lights on their displays when that goal is reached. But a new study shows that objective may not be anything to celebrate — and focuses on a new threshold for maximum health benefits.

The study, published in the March International Journal of Obesity, and reported in The New York Times, is based on mail carriers in Scotland, and researchers at the University of Warwick in England found that the 10,000-step regimen is too conservative. For optimum heart-health benefits, it’s best to go the extra mile — to 15,000 steps.

Mail carriers in Glasgow mostly cover their routes on foot, so researchers knew they would perfect test subjects for the study. They also knew office workers there were seated for most of the day, providing contrast participants. For their study, they followed 111 postal workers of both categories (56 mail carriers, and 55 office workers) and included both sexes between the ages of 40 and 60. Researchers compiled data on blood sugar levels, body-mass index (BMI — a measure of body fat based on height-to-weight ratio), waist sizes, and cholesterol levels. Participants each wore a fitness monitor throughout the day for a week, including time at work, at home and on the weekends.

Researchers compiled data based on activity during waking hours. This included time spent seated and on foot. What they found was enlightening. Between work and home, some of the office workers sat for more than 15 hours in total each day. The office workers who sat for most of the day tended to have larger waistlines, higher BMI numbers, and unfavorable cholesterol profiles. The researchers also figured in late-night shift work (which has been proven affect heart health), family history, and age.

The study also showed that for every hour spent sitting beyond five hours, office workers added…



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