Aug. 9, 2023 – A new study suggests that it takes far less than 10,000 steps a day to have a profound impact on your health. The minimum number is actually less than 5,000 steps per day to start reducing the risk of early death.
The findings were published this week in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. For the analysis, researchers pooled data for 226,889 people from 17 previous studies. They looked at daily steps and whether the people died of any cause or of heart-related causes during a 7-year period. The average age of people in the study was 64 years old, and 49% were female.
Among the findings were:
- Taking a minimum of 3,967 steps per day was the starting point for seeing a reduced risk of dying from any cause.
- Taking a minimum of 2,337 steps per day was the starting point for seeing a reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, which includes heart attack and stroke.
- For every additional 1,000 steps per day, a person’s risk of death from any cause decreased by 15%.
- For every additional 500 steps per day, a person’s risk of dying from heart problems decreased by 7%.
People younger than 60 years old saw greater risk reductions, compared to older people. People ages 59 years and younger who walked between 7,000 and 13,000 steps per day reduced their risk of death by 49%. People ages 60 years and older who walked between 6,000 and 10,000 steps per day reduced their risk of death by 42%.
The researchers did not find an upper limit for beneficial steps per day – the more steps someone took, the greater their risk reduction. The most steps per day analyzed in the study was 20,000.
“Our study confirms that the more you walk, the better,” Polish researcher Maciej Banach, MD, PhD, said in a statement. “We found that this applied to both men and women, irrespective of age, and irrespective of whether you live in a temperate, sub-tropical or sub-polar region of the world, or a region with a mixture of climates.”
It’s not clear where the oft-cited goal of 10,000 steps came from, according to the authors of a 2019 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine. It’s possible, they wrote, that it was part of a marketing campaign for a pedometer developed in Japan in the 1960s.
The World Health Organization estimates that 3.2 million deaths each year are related to not getting enough physical activity.