London - It will come as good news for the millions of people now confined to their homes – 1 000 steps a day is sufficient to considerably improve your health.
Health guidelines usually advise that we need to do 10 000 steps a day to stay fit and healthy.
But at a time when many people are self-isolating – and with gyms and sports clubs closed – most will struggle to hit this target.
Research by experts in the US suggests that doing at least some exercise each day, whether walking up the stairs or doing a few laps of the garden, can make a huge difference.
Findings presented at the American College of Cardiology conference in Chicago found just 1 000 steps a day – equivalent to a brisk ten-minute walk – slashes the risk of high blood pressure.
High blood pressure affects millions of people worldwide, and severely raises the risk of a heart attack or stroke. The study involved 638 people tracking their steps daily using an Apple Watch and recording their blood pressure weekly.
It found that their systolic blood pressure – the pressure in the arteries during contraction of the heart muscle – was about 0.45 points lower for every 1 000 daily steps taken.
Lead author Dr Mayank Sardana, of the University of California, San Francisco, said: "This study solidifies our understanding of the relationship between physical activity and blood pressure and raises the possibility that obesity or body mass index accounts for a lot of that relationship.
"It would be useful to look at how smart devices might be leveraged to promote physical activity, reduce the burden of obesity and potentially reduce blood pressure."
The study is one of the first to use commercially available wearable devices to track habitual physical activity in a large group of people in the context of daily life outside of a health care setting or research centre.
It comes after a separate research project, by the nearby University of California, San Diego, found last week that as few as 2 100 steps a day in old age can make a marked difference to health.
Experts are increasingly concerned that the 10 000-step target seems out of touch for many people – even in normal times.
And they are particularly concerned about the elderly, many of whom do no exercise at all because such a high target seems unachievable.
Last week’s study of 6 000 women with an average age of 79 concluded that taking between 2 100 and 4 500 steps a day reduced the risk of dying of cardiovascular disease by 38 percent compared with those who did less than 2 100.