October 4, 2021
The fitness goal of 10,000 steps a day is widely promoted, but a new study suggests that logging even 7,000 daily steps may go a long way toward better health and fitness, NBC News reports.
Indeed, the researchers founds, middle-aged people who walked at least 7,000 steps a day on average are 50% to 70% less likely to die of any cause over the next decade, compared with those who took fewer steps.
Lower risk of premature death was observed for both women and men, Black and white, who took 7,000 steps or more, according to results published this month in JAMA Network Open.
“We saw that you can get a lot of benefit from 7,000 steps,” said study author Amanda Paluch, an assistant professor of Kinesiology at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
The study involved 2,110 adults, ages 38 to 50, who in 2005 and 2006 wore a device called an accelerometer for about a week to track their steps. During the follow-up period, which averaged almost 11 years, 72 of the participants died, most commonly from cancer or heart disease. In analyzing the data, the researchers controlled for body mass index, smoking, and other factors that could have affected the findings.
Results showed that people appeared to gain more health benefits the more steps they took, with the greatest statistically significant reduction in mortality risk between 7,000 and 10,000 steps, Paluch said. After that, the benefits leveled off. There was no relationship between step intensity, or speed, and mortality.
“So really, what we’re seeing is there’s an incremental risk reduction in mortality up to a certain point,” Paluch told NBC News. “So for those who are getting, say, 4,000 steps, getting to 5,000 steps could have a benefit and then working your way up.”
Paluch said the new findings are in line with other research that suggests significant health benefits below the often-cited 10,000-step mark—which was never an evidence-based magical number but rather a marketing tool for a Japanese pedometer that came out in the 1960s.
Dr. William Kraus, a professor of Medicine at Duke University, was a member of the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee; which developed the current exercise guidelines for Americans, which are based on minutes of activity per week. He said he would like to see guidelines that include recommended daily steps.
“I’m all about steps, because it’s easy to measure, and people understand it,” he said.
When the 2018 guidelines were developed, the advisory committee didn’t have enough data to endorse an actual step-count range, Kraus said; but as more studies like the new one come out, they may allow public health officials to make specific recommendations.
For now, Kraus recommends that patients aim for 7,000 to 13,000 steps a day to get the full benefits that exercise can offer, including protecting against diseases like cancer and diabetes and helping with weight loss.
“I would like to emphasize that this is a range. It is not how little can I do,” he said. “People really should be striving for more rather than less.”
Research contact: @NBCNews