I wrote last year that the popular prescription that one should walk 10,000 steps a day in order to obtain the health benefits of activity originated as an advertising and marketing scheme and had no scientific basis. Research suggested that one did not need so many steps to get the benefit. But how many would be desirable?
This article summarizes some of the recent recommendations.
The good news for everyone is that the evidence is building to suggest that doing less than 10,000 steps is still good for your health. The most recent large study, led by the University of Massachusetts, followed over 2,000 middle-aged adults from different ethnic backgrounds over a period of 11 years. The researchers found that those taking at least 7,000 steps a day had a 50 to 70% lower risk of dying during the study period compared with those taking fewer than 7,000 steps a day.
Another interesting finding from the study was that the risk of dying was not associated with the step intensity. If two people did the same number of steps, the person doing them at a low intensity had no greater risk of dying compared with the person doing them at moderate intensity.
The results of the Massachusetts University study builds on the results from Harvard Medical School which showed that, on average, about 4,400 steps a day is enough to significantly lower mortality of older women during the study duration. However, these participants were older than the Massachusetts study (average age of 72), which might explain why a lower step rate reduced study death rates. Maybe older adults need less activity to gain similar health benefits.
After I got the app on my phone that tracks steps, I tried doing 10,000 steps a day and maintained that for a few months. But it took up too much time and I began to dread the effort required to maintain that goal. If you dislike an activity, there is a good chance that you will stop doing it, however good it is for you. So I lowered my goal to an average of about 6,000-7,000 steps a day and that seems to be very doable.
I am glad to see that it may be enough.
On my walks I see some younger people doing brisk walks at a pace that I cannot maintain so I was also glad to learn that low intensity walking was as effective as high intensity walking.