8,000 Daily Steps: A Path to Lowering the Risk of Premature Death
Finding the Sweet Spot
The idea of achieving 10,000 steps a day for optimal health has been ingrained in our minds since its inception in Japan in the 1960s. However, it lacked a scientific basis, leaving many to wonder if this magical number was merely a myth. Now, an international study led by the University of Granada has finally shed light on this matter and pinpointed a more accurate figure.
The study, published in the “Journal of the American College of Cardiology,” is groundbreaking as it identifies the first scientifically backed number of daily steps required for significant reductions in the risk of premature death: 8,000. With the average human stride measuring 76 centimeters for men and 67 centimeters for women, achieving 8,000 steps translates to roughly 6.4 kilometers of walking each day.
Intriguingly, the study reveals that the pace at which we walk plays an important role, suggesting that walking briskly is more advantageous than a leisurely stroll. In terms of reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease-related deaths, the study indicates that most benefits can be attained at approximately 7,000 steps per day.
A Matter of Strides and Health
This extensive research was conducted in collaboration with the Netherlands (Radboud University Medical Center), Spain (Universities of Granada and Castilla-La Mancha), and the United States (Iowa State University). For years, the widely accepted notion was that reaching the 10,000 steps mark was necessary for health benefits, despite having no scientific foundation.
Professor Francisco B. Ortega, the lead author of the study, explains the prevailing belief,
Traditionally, many people thought that you had to reach about 10,000 steps a day to obtain health benefits—an idea that came out of Japan in the 1960s but had no basis in science.” Now, their research disproves the need for 10,000 steps, and the range of 7,000-9,000 daily steps is deemed a sensible health goal for most individuals.
The study involved a systematic literature review and meta-analysis of data from twelve international studies, incorporating data from over 110,000 participants. Remarkably, the results align with other recent studies indicating that health benefits can be achieved with fewer than 10,000 steps. However, what sets this study apart is its establishment of clear step targets, marking a significant contribution to understanding how we can maintain and improve our health.
Esmée Bakker, a Marie Curie Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Granada and one of the study’s lead authors, emphasizes the significance of these findings. “In this study, we show that measurable benefits can be obtained with small increases in the number of steps per day, and that for people with low levels of physical activity, every additional 500 steps improves their health.”
The study discovered no gender-based differences and further revealed that walking at a faster pace, regardless of the total steps per day, was linked to a decreased risk of mortality. Bakker emphasizes, “it doesn’t matter how you count your steps, whether you wear a smartwatch, a wrist-based activity tracker, or a smartphone in your pocket—the step targets are the same.”
Stepping Towards a Healthier Future
So, should we stop walking once we hit around nine thousand steps? Professor Francisco B. Ortega strongly advises against it. “More steps are never bad. Our study showed that even as many as 16,000 steps a day does not pose a risk; on the contrary, there are additional benefits compared to walking 7,000-9,000 steps a day.”
While the study addresses the risk of all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease, there is ample evidence suggesting that engaging in moderate to vigorous physical activity offers numerous health advantages. These include improvements in sleep quality, mental health, and various other aspects of well-being.
Esmée Bakker concludes by highlighting the simplicity and practicality of these findings, offering individuals a clear, easily measurable goal. “Counting steps is much simpler, especially since most people have a smartphone or smartwatch these days. Herein lies the importance of our study: to provide simple and concrete targets for the number of daily steps that people can easily measure with their phones and smartwatches or wristbands, and thereby contribute to people’s health.”
As this new knowledge emerges, it encourages individuals to set achievable goals, paving the way for a healthier future, one step at a time.