Get Moving

This Is The Exact Number Of Recommended Steps Per Day To Reduce Death Risk

It’s less than you’d think.

Originally Published: 
A couple taking a walk in nature
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Ever since the arrival of wearable fitness trackers, people have been obsessed with their step count. Getting in 10,000 steps a day was the gold standard for years — even though that number was chosen somewhat arbitrarily and has been debunked as the fitness silver bullet that folks were led to believe it was. Of course, getting in more movement is great for you, but that doesn’t mean you need to sweat it if you’re not getting your 10,000 steps in. Any movement is good movement, and a new study finds that you can start seeing health benefits from a dramatically lower step count each day.

The new study, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, found that the negative impacts of a sedentary lifestyle start to wane after what most people consider a pretty low step count. Taking as few as 2,337 steps a day reduces your chance of dying from cardiovascular disease, and taking as few as 3,697 steps per day reduces your risk of dying from any cause, the researchers found.

The average step count for American adults is between 3,000 and 4,000. Anything less than 5,000 is considered sedentary.

The research team, led by Maciej Banach, a cardiology professor at the Medical University of Lodz in Poland and an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, examined data collected from 226,889 people from 17 different studies and found that taking 1,000 additional steps per day correlated to a 15% decrease in death from any cause. An additional 500 steps per day correlated to a 7% decrease in death from cardiovascular disease.

“Our study confirms that the more you walk, the better,” Banach explained. “We found that this applied to both men and women, irrespective of age and irrespective of whether you live in a temperate, sub-tropical, or sub-polar 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.”

The team continued to see health improvements as step counts increased, even to as as high as 20,000, and they could not determine an upper limit where benefits began to plateau.

These findings contradict a previous study that found that the benefits of walking taper off after 7,000 steps and that speed or intensity did not affect the health outcomes. Yet another previous study found that speed — 3 mph to 4.5 mph ideally — was the linchpin in the walking for health equation.

A sedentary lifestyle has been associated with a higher risk of death regardless of sex, location, or other socioeconomic factors, and it’s estimated that low physical activity is involved in more than 3 million deaths per year. So even if the verdict is still out on how much walking is ideal and how quickly you should be doing it, all the experts agree that walking will help you live a longer, healthier life.

Looking for more ways to get your steps in? Consider the Fall Frenzy Challenge — a family-friendly fitness challenge where you can log 50k or 500k over the next several months and raise money for charity while doing it.

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