Researchers determine how many steps a day can help reduce risk of premature death

January 18, 2024  08:34

It is accepted that the path to a long and healthy life begins with 10,000 steps a day.

But after analyzing data from tens of thousands of people on four continents, collected in 15 existing studies, a research team arrived at a more manageable number: the optimal amount is probably closer to 6,000 steps per day, depending on age.

"So, what we saw was this incremental reduction in risk as steps increase, until it levels off," University of Massachusetts Amherst physical activity epidemiologist Amanda Paluch said when their study was published back in March 2022.

She explained the commonly accepted norm of 10,000 steps as marketing. Half a century ago, she said, Japan's Yamasa Clock and Instrument company tried to capitalize on the excitement generated by the 1964 Tokyo Olympics by releasing a pedometer they called "Manpo-kei," a word that translates to 10,000 steps. Why 10,000? Good old marketing. It's a nice, round number that seems daunting enough to be a goal, but attainable enough to strive for. What it doesn't have, however, is any scientific backing.

In 2021, Paluch and her team published a study based on an analysis of data from more than 2,000 middle-aged people living in the United States. They found that walking at least 7,000 steps a day reduces the risk of premature death by 50-70%.

Their 2022 meta-analysis included information collected on the health status and steps of 47,471 adults from Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America. They found that the 25% of adults who took the most number of steps each day were 40% to 53% less likely to die prematurely. For adults in their 60s, the figure peaks at 6,000 to 8,000 steps per day.

The research has shown that those who are younger will benefit from walking a little more, but there is no evidence that they will necessarily live longer by taking more than 8,000 to 10,000 steps a day.

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