In recent years, more and more people have started paying attention to the number of steps per day they are taking. Here in NYC, specifically, it’s a badge of honor to be above the popular daily target of 10,000 steps.
But this is a walking city. So, I can see how other people might find 10,000 steps to be way out of reach—so they don’t even bother trying to attain it.
The good news is, exercise is one case where something is always better than nothing at all. And in this case, less is actually just as good as more—at least, where your longevity is concerned. Let me explain…
How many steps does it take?
Researchers pulled data from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study, which began way back in 1985.
It featured more than 2,000 subjects between the ages of 38 and 50 years, who tracked their activity with an accelerometer in the mid-2000s. Then, subjects were followed for more than a decade.
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.
- Those who took more than 10,000 steps daily.
And guess what? 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 subjects who took fewer steps.
Ultimately, results showed benefits for anyone who moved from low step counts to moderate step counts. 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.
A little bit goes a long way
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.
So just like misguided mainstream advice on fiber, eggs, and low-fat diets, the science behind this age-old recommendation is shaky at best.
Second, this study suggests that more isn’t always better when it comes to physical activity.
Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m 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. Because that “unachievable” target just got a whole lot closer.
Third is the point that this study looked at younger adults. Because the earlier you can adopt healthful practices—like taking a daily walk—the better off you’ll be in the years to come (physically and mentally).
At the end of the day, good health is not a competition. Even a little bit can go a very long way. All you have to do is start doing something… and then keep doing it.
P.S. Subscribers to my monthly Logical Health Alternatives newsletter can search for various health benefits of staying active in the archives. Including safe, effective ways to get moving even if you suffer from chronic pain. To learn more, check out the August 2021 issue. Not yet a subscriber? Click here to become one!
“Steps per day matter in middle age, but not as many as you may think: ‘Moving a little more is meaningful’.” Science Daily, 09/08/2021. (sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/09/210908180549.htm)