To significantly reduce the risk of death from any cause, studies have at last revealed the magic number of daily steps to walk. Spoiler alert: It’s not 10,000.
For years, fitness gurus have lauded the benefits of walking 10,000 steps a day. It’s a very arbitrary number, of course – one which originated in marketing, not science – but it always seemed reasonable enough. Conversely, walking fewer than 5,000 step per day (another arbitrary number) was regarded as a “sedentary lifestyle. “
Now, a slew of fresh new data is turning that thinking on its head. Emerging research from the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology challenges the long-standing notion that achieving 10,000 steps daily is the ultimate threshold for health benefits. This detailed meta-analysis, delving into data from 17 studies and 226,889 individuals, underscores the significance of any amount of walking, no matter how seemingly modest.
SOME EYE-OPENING (AND VERY PRECISE) NUMBERS
Surprisingly, the study highlights that a daily count of 3,967 steps or more can significantly decrease the risk of all-cause mortality. Walking 2,337 steps or more daily also presents a tangible drop in cardiovascular disease-related deaths. Even adding 1,000 steps to your daily routine results in a notable 15% reduction in overall mortality, with an additional 500 steps equating to a 7% decrease in cardiovascular disease-linked mortality.
These findings offer reassurance, especially considering the prevalent struggle to meet the 10,000-step target. Dr. Keith Ferdinand, Chair of Preventative Cardiology at Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans, noted that aiming for the 10,000-step goal might be challenging for many individuals, sometimes leading to a sense of discouragement. However, he emphasizes that this research doesn’t invalidate the 10,000-step recommendation; rather, it highlights the positive impact of even moderate activity.
Interestingly, the study reveals a direct correlation between the number of steps and well-being. Those who walk more, particularly 20,000 steps or more each day, enjoy the lowest risk of premature mortality.
In light of these findings, Dr. Ferdinand advises against despair if reaching 10,000 steps daily seems daunting. Any form of activity is better than none. On the flip side, those who can safely achieve the 10,000-step milestone might reap even greater mortality benefits.
STRATEGIES FOR INCORPORATING MORE STEPS
The American Heart Association suggests at least 150 minutes of moderate activity weekly, and notably, this doesn’t solely revolve around hitting that 10,000-step benchmark. Dr. Ferdinand encourages thinking beyond conventional exercise routines. Engaging in moderate housekeeping, gardening, walking with family, or spending quality time with your dog also contributes to overall health.
Physical activity doesn’t have to centre on gym workouts or regimented walking programs, either. As Dr. Ferdinand points out, being active for 150 minutes weekly in any form is beneficial. He advises considering safety, especially if walking outdoors in extreme weather conditions.
Various options exist for integrating more steps into your daily routine. Stroll within a shopping mall, explore a local community center’s basketball court, climb stairs at home, or enjoy a leisurely walk through a grocery store. Dr. Ferdinand particularly encourages individuals aged 60 and above to prioritize walking, as this study highlighted substantial benefits within the range of 6,000 to 10,000 steps daily.
JUST GET MOVING
Ultimately, the study underscores that any movement is valuable for health. While more steps are beneficial, any step counts toward enhancing well-being. Dr. Ferdinand reminds us that hitting a lower daily step count doesn’t mean you should halt efforts; rather, if possible, strive for more, comfortably and safely.
While the traditional 10,000-step benchmark remains a worthwhile goal, this study emphasizes that taking fewer steps than expected can still contribute to cardiovascular health and overall well-being. Striking a balance between safety and activity, it’s essential to remember that the journey toward better health is built on progress, no matter the step count.
Reporting from HuffPost, Insider, Medical News Today, TIME Magazine, and UT Southwestern Medical Center contributed to this article.
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