Walking 10,000 steps per day, according to researchers from the University of Southern Denmark, and the University of Sydney in Australia reduces the risk of heart disease, cancer, dementia, and mortality. A faster walking pace, such as a power walk, provided advantages that extended beyond the number of steps taken. The studies, which were published in the prestigious journals JAMA Internal Medicine and JAMA Neurology, used wearable trackers to track 78,500 adults, making them the largest studies to objectively track step count in relation to health outcomes.
“The take-home message here is that for protective health benefits, people should aim not only for 10,000 steps per day but also for faster walking,” said co-lead author Dr Matthew Ahmadi, Research Fellow at the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre and Faculty of Medicine and Health. “Our study also shows that for less active individuals, as few as 3,800 steps per day can reduce the risk of dementia by 25%,” said co-lead author Associate Professor Borja del Pozo Cruz of the University of Southern Denmark and senior researcher in health at the University of Cadiz.
Points to remember:
Every 2,000 steps reduced the chance of dying prematurely by 8 to 11%, up to a maximum of 10,000 steps per day.
Similar associations were found for the incidence of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
An increased number of steps per day was associated with a lower risk of all-cause dementia- 9,800 steps per day was the optimal dose linked to a 50% reduction in dementia risk, but the risk was reduced by 25% at as few as 3,800 steps per day.
– Stepping intensity or a faster pace was associated with better outcomes for all outcomes (dementia, heart disease, cancer, and death) when compared to total daily steps.
“Step count is easy to understand and widely used by the public to track activity levels, due to the increasing trend of fitness bands and apps,” said senior author Emmanuel Stamatakis, Professor of Physical Activity, Lifestyle, and Population Health at the University of Sydney. The results of these studies could inform the first formal step-based physical activity guidelines and help develop effective public health interventions.”
How was the research carried out?
The study used UK Biobank data to connect step count data from 78,500 UK adults aged 40 to 79 years with health outcomes 7 years later. Over the course of seven days, participants wore a wrist accelerometer to track their physical activity (minimum 3 days, including a weekend day and monitoring during sleep periods). With ethics approval, this data was linked to participants’ health records via a variety of data sources and registries, including inpatient hospital records, primary care records, and cancer and death registries. Only those who were free of cardiovascular disease, cancer, or dementia at the start of the study and remained disease free for the first two years were included in the final analysis.
Numerical adjustments were also made to account for confounders such as the fact that people who walk more steps walk faster. The researchers acknowledge that the studies are observational, which means they cannot demonstrate direct cause and effect; however, they highlight the strong and consistent associations seen across both studies at the population level.”
“The size and scope of these studies using wrist-worn trackers provide the most robust evidence to date suggesting that 10,000 steps per day is the sweet spot for health benefits and that walking faster is associated with additional benefits,” said Dr Matthew Ahmadi. “Further research with longer-term use of trackers will more information on the benefits with certain levels and severity of every day stepping.”
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