10,000 Steps Walking: How Much Do You Really Need to Do?
According to a recent research review published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, walking just 4,000 steps per day—less than half of the 10,000 steps frequently advised for maintaining an active lifestyle—might be sufficient to help extend your life.
This finding shouldn’t discourage anyone from taking a longer stroll since the researchers discovered that moving more reduces the risk of premature death by about 15% for every additional 1,000 steps taken each day. However, it adds to a growing body of evidence that suggests workouts don’t necessarily need to be difficult or prolonged to improve your health. Studies have shown that a variety of activities, including dancing, housework, and walking, can improve well-being.
As steps taken each day are a frequently studied indicator of physical activity, a team of researchers examined 17 previously published papers on walking and health to arrive at the new findings. More than 225,000 adults, with an average age of 64, participated in these studies collectively. Some of them were in generally good health, while others had cardiovascular disease risk factors. They were monitored for an average of seven years.
Researchers found that mortality risk decreases over time as people walk more after analyzing the data from those studies. Up to 20,000 steps per day, they didn’t find a threshold beyond which more activity ceased to be beneficial.
But in line with earlier studies, they also concluded that enhancing health doesn’t necessitate taking a lot of daily steps. Once study participants reached a threshold of about 4,000 steps per day (roughly two miles), the risk of dying from any cause started to significantly decline. When examining the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease specifically, the threshold was even lower—around 2,500 steps per day.
The researchers discovered that these trends remained largely constant when comparing men and women as well as across various geographical locations. However, there were some distinctions between individuals of various ages. Walking between 6,000 and 10,000 steps per day reduced mortality risk for adults over 60 by about 42% while walking between 7,000 and 13,000 steps per day reduced mortality risk for adults under 60 by about 49%.
The results come with some warnings. One reason is that while this kind of observational research can reveal patterns, it cannot unambiguously establish cause and effect. Daily steps were only one component of a larger picture because the researchers were unable to fully account for the socioeconomic statuses or overall lifestyles of the participants. For instance, it’s possible that those who were most active also exhibited a variety of other healthy behaviors that may have contributed to their longer lifespan.
However, the new study comes to the same conclusion as many other studies—and the U.S. federal physical activity guidelines—that more movement is almost always better, but even a little is better than nothing.