How many steps should middle-aged people take each day to maintain health?

Walking 7000 steps a day reduces the risk of premature death in middle-aged men and women, says study.

We all know moving and keeping active is vital for our health. The 10000 steps per day is a widely recommended guideline but has not been scientifically supported. It was first proposed as part of a marketing campaign for a Japanese pedometer.

Amanda Paluch, PhD, a physical activity epidemiologist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst wanted to know how many daily steps were needed to benefit health in middle-aged black and white men and women.

Paluch and colleagues conducted a prospective analysis of data from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study (CARDIA) in the US, which has been ongoing since 1985, and examines how lifestyle and environmental factors affect heart health over the life course.

Between 2005-2006, a cohort of 2110 adults aged between 38-50 wore an accelerometer for seven days to monitor daily activity levels. The participants were divided into three comparison groups based on the number of steps they took: those who took fewer than 7000 steps were deemed to be a low step count, 7000-9999 were moderate, and 100000 or over were high.

The scientists tracked the study members for a further 10.8 years on average, and the data was analysed in 2020-2021.

The results published in JAMA open network found those taking 7000 steps or more each day reduced the risk of early death from all causes by 50-70 per cent, which means that the people walking roughly 3 miles a day were less likely to have died 11 years later compared to those taking fewer steps.

The speed people walked didn’t make a difference to the results. Taking more than 10000 steps wasn’t linked to any further reduction in risk of death. In addition, no significant difference was found between gender and ethnicity.

“For people at 4,000 steps, getting to 5,000 is meaningful. “And from 5,000 to 6,000 steps, there is an incremental risk reduction in all-cause mortality up to about 10,000 steps,” said Paluch in a press statement.

“Preventing those deaths before average life expectancy – that is a big deal,” Paluch said. “Showing that steps per day could be associated with premature mortality is a new contribution to the field.”


A.E. Paluch, K. P. Gabriel, J. E. Fulton, C. E. Lewis, P. J. Schreiner, B.Sternfeld, S. Sidney, J.Siddique, K.Whitaker, M. R. Carnethon (2021) Steps per Day and All-Cause Mortality in Middle-aged Adults in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study. JAMA Network Open, 4(9), e2124516 DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.24516.


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