Most of us have heard we should be logging 10,000 steps a day to stay healthy and fit.
That guidance originated decades ago with a marketing campaign in Japan designed to promote a pedometer.
The 10,000 number has since caught on around the world and is often the default daily goal setting in smartphone apps and fitness trackers.
But the original basis for the number was not scientifically determined.
Now more recent research has given us a better understanding of the relationship between daily steps and overall health. New findings on this topic were just published in March 2020 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Researchers from the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute on Aging, as well as from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that the number of steps a person takes each day does indeed have a strong association with mortality.
For the study, the researchers tracked nearly 5,000 U.S. adults aged 40 and over who wore accelerometers between 2003 and 2006, and then followed their mortality status through 2015 via the National Death Index.
The investigators were able to isolate the association between mortality and step number by adjusting for demographic and behavioral risk factors, body mass index, and health status at the beginning of the study.
The findings revealed that a greater number of daily steps was significantly associated with lower all-cause mortality.
More specifically, taking at least 8,000 steps per day was associated with a 51% lower risk for death from all causes compared with taking 4,000 steps per day or less.
Going up to 12,000 steps per day was associated with a 65% lower risk of dying compared with taking 4,000 steps.
Although correlation does not necessarily mean causation, based on this new data everyone should aim to tally at least 8,000 steps per day, and going beyond that is even better (presumably there is a point at which it becomes too much activity, but that isn’t a meaningful risk for most people).
If 8,000 steps sounds daunting, note that this recent research found no association between step intensity and risk of death after accounting for the total number of steps taken per day.
This new research proves once again that our bodies were designed to move.
Take more steps, live longer.
But you can take those steps on your own terms, without suffering through dreaded workouts.
The key is to be consistent and to stay active every day.