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Walking: How Many Steps Are Enough? Less Than You Thought!

Everybody knows walking is good for you.

It is the “superfood” of movement. But how much walking is enough? How much walking will make a difference in your health and your longevity?

Taking 10,000 steps per day is often suggested as a desirable goal for fitness. That is what my walking app tells me. But it turns out that 10,000 steps have no scientific basis.

For a lot of us, the 10,000 steps rule has been a damper rather an incentive. As in, “that’s more than I can do. So I won’t even try.” I have good news for those of you who feel that way!

A recent study found that 10, 000 steps are not necessary to increase your longevity.

A lot less will do.

The 10,000 steps rule originated in Japan in the 1960s. A clockmaker manufactured a pedometer and called it a name that translates as “10,000 steps.” That marketing decision became a popularly accepted urban myth. But we can ignore it now.

A new study published in May 2019 tells a different story. It looks at activity and mortality in 16,741 U.S. women who are part of the Women’s Health Study.  (The WHS has been tracking the health and habits of older women for decades.)

The first part of this study took place between 2011 and 2011. The average age of the women was 72. The women agreed to wear a device that measured their steps. They wore the device while they were awake for 7 days.

The women were not influenced by the readout results because they did not see them. And they were not told about them. They were simply moving through their daily lives in a typical week. Few walked for exercise. The device also measured the intensity of the steps. But the study found that intensity did not matter. The results were the same.

Scientists checked death records for the group of the next four to five years.

The women who moved the least took about 2,700 steps. This group was most likely to have died during the follow-up period. Women who took 4,500 steps were 40 percent less like to die during the follow-up period than the first group. Between 4,500 steps and 7,500 steps mortality rates kept improving. Then they leveled off.

The results were surprising to the researchers. A relatively small number of steps could and did increase the life spans of the women in the study. Listen up! Is it time to get moving?

Summing Up:

Walking is the easiest way to get moving. This is not the first time I have touted its benefits and it won’t be the last. Now you know you don’t have to walk 10,000 steps a day to live longer and better. That 4,400 to 7,500 will do it. Will you do it?

Reference: Lee I, Shiroma EJ, Kamada M, Bassett DR, Matthews CE, Buring JE. Association of Step Volume and Intensity With All-Cause Mortality in Older Women. JAMA Intern Med. May 29, 2019

[Medical Disclaimer: This article is for education and information only. It is not a substitute for a doctor’s opinion.] 

Photo Credit: ID 15927288 © Tiziano Casalta | Dreamstime.com

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