Walking is healthy, that much is clear, but exactly how many steps should you take per day? There was debate about that for a long time. Fortunately, the largest study ever on the subject now comes up with a definitive conclusion.
And it is not so bad: those 10,000 steps are not necessary. To be precise, the risk of premature death already decreases at 3967 steps a day, and already after a minimum of 2337 steps, the chance of dying from cardiovascular disease is less than in people who do little or no exercise.
More steps, more years of life
But what is true is: more = better. The more you walk, the longer you live on average. As mentioned, never before has there been such extensive research on the benefits of walking. Seventeen studies involving a total of more than 220,000 people from around the world were included in the massive meta-analysis. With every five hundred to one thousand extra steps per day, the chance of dying from any cause decreases significantly. For every thousand steps, the chance of dying decreases by 15 per cent, and five hundred steps already account for a 7 per cent lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
No upper limit found
However, the US researchers found no upper limit. They calculated that even in people who average 20,000 steps a day, there are still additional health benefits. "Our research shows that the more you walk, the better it is for your body and members," says professor and cardiologist Maciej Banach from Johns Hopkins University. "We conclude that this is true for both men and women, regardless of their age and whether they live in a subtropical, temperate or cold region. People only need to take an average of 4 000 steps a day to significantly reduce their overall risk of premature death, and even less exercise than that is enough to reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular disease."
Biggest risk for women and people in rich countries
There is strong evidence that a sedentary lifestyle contributes to the risk of cardiovascular disease and a shorter life. At the same time, more than a quarter of all people on earth do not exercise enough. This is more true for women (32 per cent) than men (23 per cent) and for people from rich countries (37 per cent) more than for people from poor countries (16 per cent). The benefit was greatest for younger people. Over-60s taking 10,000 steps a day were 42 per cent less likely to die prematurely than those taking an average of 6,000 steps. In younger adults, a lower risk of 49 per cent was found between 7,000 and 13,000 daily steps.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), lack of exercise is the fourth leading cause of death in the world. The organisation estimates that 3.2 million people a year die from lack of exercise. The corona pandemic caused people worldwide to move even less and this has not improved in the years since.
Participants with an average age of 64 years were followed for an average of seven years. "It was not clear until now what the optimal number of steps per day is. We did not know where the health benefits start, where the optimum lies and where the upper limit is. That has changed after our study. Although I must say that we have little data from people who take around 20,000 steps daily, so these results need to be confirmed in follow-up studies with larger groups of fanatics," explains researcher Ibadete Bytyçi.
Fewer medicines, more physical activity
Professor Banach concludes with the advice to exercise more and take less medication. "In a world where we are increasingly betting on new medications and surgical interventions, it is just as important to encourage exercise, healthy eating and an overall healthy lifestyle. In this way, we may prevent and alleviate even more cardiovascular disorders and other potentially fatal conditions. We would like to conduct more health research in the near future on the effects of exercise on intense endurance athletes, such as marathon runners and triathlon participants from all walks of life and of different ages. It strongly seems that a personalised approach in encouraging lifestyle changes works best, just as is the case with medical treatments."
Original article by: Jeannette Kras, Scientias.nl
Source: "The association between daily step count and all-cause and cardiovascular mortality: a meta-analysis" - European Journal of Preventive Cardiology