A meta-analysis of 15 research involving over 50,000 participants from four continents has revealed new information on the amount of daily walking steps that will best improve adults’ health and longevity—and if the number of steps varies by age.
The research is part of an effort to create an evidence-based public health message about the advantages of physical activity. The 10,000-steps-a-day motto arose from a decades-old marketing promotion for a Japanese pedometer, with no scientific evidence to back up its health benefits.
The Steps for Health Collaborative, led by physical activity epidemiologist Amanda Paluch of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, discovered that walking more steps per day reduces the risk of early mortality. The findings were published in a publication in The Lancet Public Health on March 2nd.
More specifically, for those 60 and older, the risk of premature mortality plateaued at around 6,000-8,000 steps per day, indicating that taking more steps did not improve longevity. The risk of premature death in adults under 60 was found to be stable at around 8,000-10,000 steps per day.
Paluch explains, “What we noticed was this progressive reduction in risk as steps increased, until it leveled off.” “Also, for older vs younger persons, the leveling happened at different step values.”
Paluch points out that the study revealed no definite link between walking pace and the overall number of steps taken each day. The association between getting in your steps—regardless of the pace at which you walked them—and a lower risk of dying was discovered.
The current study backs up and extends on findings from another Paluch-led study published in the JAMA Network Open last September, which found that walking at least 7,000 steps per day lowered the chance of early death in middle-aged people.
Adults should obtain at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical exercise per week, according to the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Paluch is one of the academics working to build an evidence basis that would guide recommendations for easy, accessible physical exercise like walking.
“Steps are fairly easy to track, and fitness tracking gadgets are rapidly growing in popularity,” Paluch explains. “For public health message, it’s such a straightforward communication tool.”
The researchers pooled data from 15 studies that looked at the impact of daily steps on all-cause death in people aged 18 and up. They divided almost 50,000 individuals into four groups based on their average daily steps. The lowest step group averaged 3,500 steps per day, followed by 5,800, 7,800, and 10,900 steps per day.
According to the meta-analysis, the three higher active groups who walked more steps per day had a 40-53 percent lower risk of death than the lowest quartile group who walked fewer steps.
“The main lesson is that there’s a lot of evidence that moving just a little bit more is good, especially for those who aren’t doing much,” Paluch adds.
“It is better for your health to walk more steps every day. For older persons, the advantage in terms of mortality risk is about 6,000 to 8,000, while for younger adults, the benefit is approximately 8,000 to 10,000.”