Stepping Out for Lower Mortality

For decades the conventional wisdom was that the optimal number of daily steps needed to be around 10,000. However, as new research is now demonstrating, that may not be the case. But the importance of walking throughout the day remains important. Researchers from the University of Massachusetts reaffirm that steps per day is a meaningful metric for physical activity. However, the numbers surrounding the needed steps per day may be a little fuzzy.

In this study, the researchers had an objective to look at the association of steps per day with premature (age 41 to 65) mortality among men and women. What makes this study even more compelling is that the 2,110 participants in this sample started this study back in 2005, meaning they were followed via the wearing of an accelerometer for about 10 years. This allowed researchers to recruit younger adults (38-50) and then track them across 10 years as they entered the middle-aged cohort, to see if there was any association between steps per day and mortality. Steps per day were classified as low (<7,000 steps/day), moderate (7,000-9,999 steps/day) and high (>10,000 steps/day).

Results indicated that among Black and White middle-aged men and women, those who took 7,000 steps/day or more had lower mortality rates compared to those who took fewer than 7,000 steps/day. There was no other association of step intensity with mortality. In other words, taking more than 10,000 steps was not associated with further reduction in mortality risk.

Researchers are careful to point out that this evidence does not negate the importance of walking and using steps per day as a metric of physical mobility. But the numbers surrounding this benefit need to be clear to patients and consumers, and not oversold.


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Paluch, A. E., Gabriel, K. P., Fulton, J. E., Lewis, C. E., Schreiner, P. J., Sternfeld, B., … & Carnethon, M. R. (2021). Steps per day and all-cause mortality in middle-aged adults in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study. JAMA network open4(9), e2124516-e2124516.

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