The number of steps you should walk every day to start seeing benefits to your health is lower than previously thought, according to the largest analysis to investigate this.
A new study found that walking at least 3967 steps a day started to reduce the risk of dying from any cause, and 2337 steps a day reduced the risk of dying from diseases of the heart and blood vessels.
However, the new analysis of 226,889 people from 17 different studies around the world has shown that the more you walk, the greater the health benefits. The risk of dying from any cause or from cardiovascular disease decreases significantly with every 500 to 1000 extra steps you walk. An increase of 1000 steps a day was associated with a 15% reduction in the risk of dying from any cause, and an increase of 500 steps a day was associated with a 7% reduction in dying from cardiovascular disease.
The researchers found that even if people walked as many as 20,000 steps a day, the health benefits continued to increase. They have not found an upper limit yet.
“Our study confirms that the more you walk, the better,” says Prof. Banach. “We found that this applied to both men and women, irrespective of age, and irrespective of whether you live in a temperate, subtropical or subpolar region of the world, or a region with a mixture of climates. In addition, our analysis indicates that as little as 4,000 steps a day are needed to significantly reduce deaths from any cause, and even fewer to reduce deaths from cardiovascular disease.”
Dr Ibadete Bytyçi senior author of the paper, says: “Until now, it’s not been clear what is the optimal number of steps, both in terms of the cut-off points over which we can start to see health benefits, and the upper limit, if any, and the role this plays in people’s health. However, I should emphasize that there was limited data available on step counts up to 20,000 a day, and so these results need to be confirmed in larger groups of people.”
In people aged 60 years or older, the size of the reduction in risk of death was smaller than that seen in people aged younger than 60 years. In the older adults, there was a 42% reduction in risk seen in those who walked between 6,000 and 10,000 steps a day, while there was a 49% reduction in risk in younger adults who walked between 7,000 and 13,000 steps a day.
Prof. Banach says: “In a world where we have more and more advanced drugs to target specific conditions such as cardiovascular disease, I believe we should always emphasize that lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise, which was a main hero of our analysis, might be at least as, or even more effective in reducing cardiovascular risk and prolonging lives. We still need good studies to investigate whether these benefits may exist for intensive types of exertion, such as marathon running and iron man challenges, and in different populations of different ages, and with different associated health problems. However, it seems that, as with pharmacological treatments, we should always think about personalizing lifestyle changes.”
Maciej Banach, Joanna Lewek, Stanisław Surma, Peter E Penson, Amirhossein Sahebkar, Seth S Martin, Gani Bajraktari, Michael Y Henein, Željko Reiner, Agata Bielecka-Dąbrowa, Ibadete Bytyçi. The association between daily step count and all-cause and cardiovascular mortality: a meta-analysis. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, 2023; DOI: 10.1093/eurjpc/zwad229
European Society of Cardiology. “The more you walk, the lower your risk of early death, even if you walk fewer than 5,000 steps.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 August 2023. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/08/230808201935.htm>.
Photo by Jad Limcaco