This report just published in JAMA Internal Medicine emphasizes the ‘Back to Reality’ approach for improving one’s health. Even though the study included approximately 17,000 women around the age of 70, its findings can be modified for younger people.
The benchmark for walking has been arbitrarily set at 10,000 steps /day, or about five miles. But there isn’t solid evidence that 10,000 steps daily is right for everyone, and it’s also unclear how much intensity or speed matters when counting the health benefits of every step. This study found that older women who walk the equivalent of only about two miles per day, or 4400 steps, might live longer than their less-active counterparts.
Researchers studied 17,000 women in their early 70s who wore accelerometers to track their total daily steps, as well as the intensity of their movements. Overall, participants logged an average of 5,499 daily steps, or roughly 2.5 miles per day. Compared to women who logged no more than 2,700 steps daily, women who achieved around 4,400 daily steps were 41 percent less likely to die.
More steps taken per day were associated with even lower mortality rates until about 7,500 steps/day, beyond which no further improvements were found. The rate of stepping did not matter in these older women; it was the number of steps that mattered.
So my suggestion is this: If you go for a 45-minute walk/ hike with an average of 100 steps per minute, then you have reached the goal of 4,400 steps – no fuss, no math, and no Fitbit.
For those of you who are much younger and have been holding onto the 10,000 step ideal, you may want to continue on this path, but rethink that number as you get older.
Remember, it is not the intensity that matters, only the number of steps. This is good news for older adults who may have difficulty walking at faster paces,
The Bottom Line: Any amount of walking will sharply reduce your risk of death.
For those who have difficulty walking, other research shows that any form of aerobic activity provides health benefits. Swimming, bicycling, aerobic exercise classes or any form of activity that is continuous in nature will provide health benefits.