If there’s one exercise recommendation that seems to have taken hold of everyone in recent years, it’s the advice to take at least 10,000 steps a day. And now, for a lot of people, anything less might feel like a waste of time.
But let me remind you that something is always better than nothing.
In fact, in some cases, less can actually be MORE—at least, where your longevity is concerned…
Redefining the sweet spot
For a recent analysis, researchers pulled data from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study, which began in year 1985.
It featured more than 2,000 subjects between the ages of 38 and 50, who tracked their activity with an accelerometer in the mid-2000s.The study followed the subjects for more than a decade afterward.
The subjects fell into three groups: Those who took fewer than 7,000 steps daily, those who took between 7,000 and 10,000 steps daily, and those who took more than 10,000 steps daily.
As usual, the middle ground was the sweet spot: Walking at least 7,000 steps daily slashed subjects’ risk of dying from any cause in HALF—and in some cases, by as much as 70 percent—compared to middle-aged subjects who took fewer steps.
Ultimately, anyone who moved from low step counts to moderate step counts reaped health benefits. And increasing steps from 5,000 up to 10,000 delivered a steady decline in mortality risk.
Walking more than 10,000 steps, on the other hand, didn’t deliver any additional survival benefits.
Whatever you do, just do it
These results drive home a couple of important points.
First, it’s clear that a lot of the prevailing exercise “prescriptions” are completely arbitrary. (In fact, the study authors point out that the recommendation to take 10,000 steps daily actually originated as part of an old Japanese pedometer marketing campaign.)
Second—and perhaps most importantly—is the message that, contrary to popular belief, when it comes to physical activity, more isn’t always better.
Don’t get me wrong—I’m certainly not going to tell you to exercise less. But if you’ve hesitated to get moving because you think you can’t achieve the amounts necessary to make a noticeable difference, let this be your call to action.
Even a little bit can go a very long way. So whatever you do… just do it. And keep doing it!
Paluch AE, et al. “Steps per Day and All-Cause Mortality in Middle-aged Adults in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study.” JAMA Network Open, 2021; 4 (9): e2124516 DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.2