We’ve all heard of the 10,000 daily step goal, and some of us may have become fitness tracker enthusiasts as a result. A new study delves into how helpful this fitness goal really is and finds that your pace is pretty important.
Researchers at the University of Sydney and University of Southern Denmark recently examined the health benefits of 10,000 steps per day, finding that it was linked with a lower risk of a variety of diseases, as well as a lower risk of premature death. Their two studies, published in JAMA Internal Medicine and JAMA Neurology, show that the benefits are most felt when you kick it up a notch, though, to more like a power walk.
Dr. Matthew Ahmadi, co-lead author and research fellow at the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre, says, “The take-home message here is that for protective health benefits people could not only ideally aim for 10,000 steps a day but also aim to walk faster.”
Ahmadi’s team conducted their research with data from the medical database UK Biobank. They examined step data from 78,500 residents of the United Kingdom between the ages of 40 and 79 who were followed for seven years. Participants wore wrist accelerometers for seven days to have their physical activity gauged. The team only included data from patients free from cardiovascular disease, cancer, and dementia over the first two years of the study.
When adjusting for confounding factors, the team found that every 2,000 steps were linked with an 8-11% lower risk of premature death, with this continuing up to 10,000 daily steps. There were similar figures for cardiovascular disease and the development of cancer. Dementia risk was also lowered the more steps a patient had, with 9,800 daily steps linked with a 50% reduced risk of dementia. Fewer steps also helped, though.
Borja del Pozo Cruz, co-lead author and associate professor from the University of Southern Denmark, explains, “For less active individuals, our study also demonstrates that as low as 3,800 steps a day can cut the risk of dementia by 25%.”
Among all diseases studied and overall mortality risk, incidence went down the faster a person walked, as well.
The team notes that these were observational studies and can’t prove the steps are the cause of lowered risks, but they did find strong and consistent associations.
Dr. Ahmadi says, “The size and scope of these studies using wrist-worn trackers makes it the most robust evidence to date suggesting that 10,000 steps a day is the sweet spot for health benefits and walking faster is associated with additional benefits.”
The team says going forward, longer-term studies can help better understand the impacts of steps and step intensity.
Would you like to get more steps into your average day? You could schedule a daily walk, walk rather than drive to nearby businesses, park further away when you do drive, take the stairs, or walk in place while you wait for something or someone.