Many people believe that they need to be walking at least 10,000 steps a day for good health. The number is often the default setting for step goals on fitness trackers and promoted by experts as a worthy daily fitness goal. Research into how that number was reached shows that the original basis of the number was not scientifically determined, but was traced back to a marketing campaign for a pedometer launched in Japan. So the question remains…how many steps to you need to take each day for good health?
Researcher I-Min Lee of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and her colleagues set out to answer that question. Their study included about 17,000 older women with an average age of 72. The women all agreed to wear clip-on devices to track how many steps they took as they conducted their day-to-day activities. Their findings have been published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
According to the results of the study, women who took 4,400 steps per day, on average, were about 40 percent less likely to die than those who averaged 2,700 steps during the follow-up period of about four years. The 25 percent of women who walked the least were most likely to die in the follow-up period. Walking more than 4,400 steps was connected to even lower risks, but the benefits of walking appeared to max out at about 7,500 steps.
The study appears to show that daily light walking is important for maintaining health as you age. While taking 10,000 steps a day is a good goal, people who walk less than half that amount may still see significant health benefits. The speed or intensity that people walked at didn’t seem to affect mortality rates.
Many people take at least 2,700 steps doing daily activities, so moderate changes in lifestyle can easily boost that number around 4,000 steps per day. Simple things, like parking further away from the store when running errands or taking a daily walk around your neighborhood, are realistic goals that you can set to start.