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The Science of walking your way to a longer life?

Maintaining a regular amount of physical activity has long been recommended to improve physical health and prevent diseases such as cardiovascular disease. While the World Health Organization recommends that adults aim for at least 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week, it is hard to translate this to daily step goals, which are typically 10,000 with minimal prior evidence supporting this daily goal.


A study investigating the relationship between daily steps and participant health found that higher steps per day equated to lower hazard ratios, analyzing results from seven cohort studies published after 2015 with a total of 24,141 participants (average age 57-78).

The study results found a strong relationship between increasing steps per day and reduced mortality risk.

This relationship continued up to 17,000 daily steps, at which point insufficient data allowed the study to draw any conclusions on higher step counts.

Taking a closer look at the impact of increasing step counts, each additional 1,000 steps taken per day equated to a 12% lower risk of mortality. So, increasing your step count, even by a little bit, does positively impact your health.

It is important to note that, since these results come from a meta-analysis of observational studies, it is likely that the results have been affected by outside factors. For example, some participants' lower daily step counts might be because of poor health and a higher presence of comorbidities, which would undoubtedly then affect mortality. In these instances, the number of steps per day is likely the result of present comorbidities, and not the other way around.

Six of the seven studies analyzed did control baseline comorbidities, but statistical methods cannot fully consider existing comorbidities.

Additional Benefits of Increasing Step Counts

Two diseases that increasing daily steps can help reduce include cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, two of the most prevalent and risky diseases worldwide.
walk, health, movement

Analysis found that increasing daily step values by 500-1000 steps led to a 5-21% decrease in cardiovascular disease risk, and increasing steps counts by 2000 resulted in a 5% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes in individuals with impaired glucose tolerance.

Some of the most interesting information obtained from the study is that the step intensity, or the speed at which people completed their steps, was not associated with mortality when adjusting for daily step count. These findings suggest that getting more steps in the day is more important for health than the intensity in which those steps are achieved. (i.e., the same number of steps obtained by walking or jogging have the same health impact). While further research is needed to confirm these suggestions, the evidence undoubtedly shows the effect of more steps on health, no matter how you get those steps in.


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