How many steps do you really need to take each day, according to science?

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The more you walk, the lower your risk of all-cause and cancer deaths, According to a new study, with benefits settled once you reach 10,000 steps per day. It is clear then that this is the number of steps we should aim for – or is it?

Studies comparing health outcomes with the number of steps seem pretty convincing, because these days We all have pedometers on our wrists or In our pockets. The step count number also seems very specific and accurate: 10000 Steps equal health and happiness, and they are measured for us automatically. Fabulous.

But already, I bet you’ve noticed a few major caveats. Our bodies are messy meat machines, not tidy step counters. If exercise is what matters, wouldn’t a cyclist have fewer steps than a runner, yet be just as healthy? In that respect, couldn’t walkers and runners end up calculating similar steps despite doing very different intensities of exercise that would likely have different effects on the body?

On the other hand, there are a few ways step counts are a good way to track activity, so I don’t want to dismiss the idea entirely, Although I Skeptical about the accuracy of the image you provide. The number of steps is higher for people who move around more in daily life (an “occasional” activity, sometimes called) even if they don’t do a lot of structured exercise. Steps are also counted automatically: YYou may not remember whether you’ve been doing yard work for 20 minutes or 45 minutes, but your tracker probably has a good idea of ​​how many steps you’ve taken.

There is another set of caveats: T.These studies are usually observational. They tell us that people who take more steps per day tend to be healthier. But is it a cause or an effect? People in poor health may have less energy to run errands and go on daily walks. It is possible that people who use wheelchairs or other mobility aids do not record the number of steps even when they do so.

With that in mind, here are some step counts published in recent research, alongside some of their caveats.

For all-cause mortality and cancer mortality

It found that people who took 10,000 steps had lower risks than those who took 8,000, who in turn had lower risks than those who took 6,000 steps, and so forth. A number of steps greater than 10,000 appears to have a similar risk as 10,000. In other words, if this is a true causal relationship—which we can’t be sure—increasing from 10,000 to 12,000 will not change the risk of cancer or death.

The 78,500 people tracked were from the UK, aged between 40 and 79, and 97% were white.

to treat dementia

this study It found that the participants’ risk of developing dementia decreased as the number of steps they took increased, up to 9,800 per day, similar to the study mentioned above. (It was also done by the same team and drawn from the same group of subjects.) They also noted that people who took 3,800 steps had about half the lower risk of people who took 9,800 steps, so maybe that lower number is a good target if you’re currently more sedentary. . However, this was also an observational study, and most of the participants were a bit young to start developing dementia.

All-cause mortality in elderly women

this study It found a reduced risk of death from any cause in the women who took 4,400 steps compared to those who took 2,700 steps per day. More was better, up to about 7,500 steps, after which the chance of death seemed to have settled. The step count numbers come from the quartiles: the average 25% of people with the lowest step count averaged about 2,700.

The number of participants was 16,741 women with an average age of 72 years Women’s Health Study, which began as a 1990 trial of aspirin and vitamins to prevent heart disease and cancer. 95% of the participants are white and most of them are nurses.

middle-aged mortality

this study Comparing the steps per day with the risk of death in middle age (41 to 65). It found that people who took more than 7,000 steps had a 50% to 70% lower risk of death compared to people who took less than 7,000 steps per day. This number was chosen as a cut because it is the number American College of Sports Medicine estimates Like a 30-minute walk each day, plus a small amount of non-exercise activity.

The 2,110 participants were 57% women, 42% black, and they were followed for approximately 11 years after the study.

for atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis is a component of cardiovascular disease. This is a systematic review I found that increasing your steps by 2,000 steps per day seemed to reduce arterial stiffness by roughly the same amount as starting a structured exercise program. The groups that were compared in the analysis ranged from those who took less than 5,000 steps to those who took more than 10,000. The authors write: “In layman’s terms, these results suggest that some physical activity is better than none, but also that more is better than none. Little”.

The results come from 20 previous studies. Most were cross-sectional (comparing groups of people based on the number of steps they take) but a few were randomized controlled trials or prospective studies.

Risk of diabetes in Hispanic adults

this study It found that every additional 1,000 steps per day was associated with a 2% lower risk of developing diabetes. People who took 10,000 to 12,000 steps per day had an 18% lower risk compared to those who took less than 5,000 steps per day.

Study participants were 6,634 Hispanic and Hispanic adults, half of whom were female, with an average age of 39.

For all causes of death, but at different ages

this study Which is interesting because it breaks down the results by age group. Data from 15 studies indicate that mortality decreases with increasing steps up to 6000 to 8000 steps for people aged 60 years and over, but the equivalent in younger adults is between 8000 and 10,000 steps.

What do we make of all this?

I think it would be a mistake to take these key findings entirely at face value. Can you reduce your risk of death by a certain percentage just by deliberately walking a few thousand extra steps a day? Nearly all of these studies compared people who previously He walked different amounts, rather than tasking groups of people with increasing their step count and seeing how their health changed.

But the results suggest that healthy people tend to have a step count near the higher end of the typical range. In nearly all of these studies (and others in this area of ​​research), people who take, say, 8,000 steps tend to be in a lower risk category than those who take, say, 2,000 steps. So, if you’re currently fairly sedentary, getting your step count might be worth a try, even if there isn’t a specific study telling you You have To meet such and such number.

I think it’s also interesting to see that there is no specific The optimal number identified by these studies, although we like to talk about these studies in detail. It’s not like you need to get to 10,000 because something different is going to happen than if you get to 9500.

The curves on the graphs in these papers tend to settle somewhere in four digits high, but the estimates also get less certain there because there aren’t a lot of people who get strides more than that. Someone who routinely gets 25,000 steps a day, for example, is off the charts. They may be very fit, or they may have an active job working harder than they can recover easily; These studies are not designed to elicit a difference.

The bottom line, then, is probably what you would have assumed even before checking the numbers: If you sit a lot, moving around will probably do you more good. And if you want specific instructions, you can follow the good old 150+ minutes of exercise per week Guideline, or follow different Guidelines of government projects She recommends 8,500 steps per day (US Presidential Challenge), 7,000 to 10,000 (UK National Obesity Forum), or 8,000 to 10,000 (Japan).

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