Walking as little as 4,000 steps per day may reduce the risk of dying from any cause, according to the largest study to date; however, the more you walk, the greater the health benefits. The notion that a sedentary lifestyle is associated with inferior health is now well-established, but until now, it was uncertain what the optimal number of steps people should strive for or if there is an upper limit beyond which additional health benefits are minimal.
To investigate, researchers led by Maciej Banach, a professor of cardiology at the Medical University of Lodz in Poland, analyzed data from 17 previous studies involving 226,889 individuals who were observed for an average of seven years to determine the health effects of varying daily step counts. The study, which was published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, indicated that walking at least 3,967 steps per day reduced the risk of dying from any cause, while walking 2,337 steps per day reduced the risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases.
Above these thresholds, each increase of 1,000 steps per day was associated with a 15% reduction in the risk of dying from any cause, and each increase of 500 steps per day was associated with a 7% reduction in the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.
The Universal Benefits of Walking: A Global Perspective
“Our research demonstrates that walking more is beneficial. We discovered that this was true for both men and women, regardless of age, and regardless of whether you reside in a temperate, subtropical, or subpolar region of the globe, or a region with a mix of climates,’ Banach explained. In addition, our analysis indicates that as few as 4,000 steps per day are sufficient to substantially reduce fatalities from all causes, and even fewer to reduce deaths from cardiovascular disease.
For younger age groups, those taking between 7,000 and 13,000 steps per day showed the greatest improvement in health, whereas for those aged 60 and older, it was between 6,000 and 10,000 steps per day. The team also evaluated the effects of walking up to 20,000 steps per day, which is equivalent to walking 9 to 10 miles for the average person, and found that the health benefits continued to grow.
“We did not observe any diminishing effect or risk plateau for any of the investigated groups,” the team reported. However, they cautioned that data for such “high steppers” remains limited and that more research is necessary.
Banach stated, “In a world where we have more and more advanced drugs to target specific conditions such as cardiovascular disease, I believe we should always emphasize that lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise, may be just as – or even more – effective in reducing cardiovascular risk and prolonging lives.”There is still a need for high-quality research to determine whether these benefits exist for intense forms of exertion, such as marathon running and ironman competitions, in diverse populations of varying ages and with a variety of health conditions. Nevertheless, it appears that, as with pharmaceutical interventions, we should always consider individualizing lifestyle adjustments.”
According to the World Health Organization, inadequate physical activity is the fourth leading cause of mortality worldwide, accounting for 3,2 million fatalities annually.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the average daily number of steps was 5,324 worldwide and 5,424 in the United Kingdom. However, the pandemic led to a decrease in physical activity, and two years later, the average daily number of steps had not returned to pre-pandemic levels.
Prof. James Leiper, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, stated, “This study demonstrates how beneficial walking is to our health. If you packaged the benefits into a medication, we would call it a miracle drug.If we haven’t exercised in a while or if we find it difficult to incorporate physical activity into our hectic schedules, exercise and physical activity can appear daunting. “What’s great about walking is that it doesn’t require any special equipment or training, and you can do it almost anywhere.”
Source: The Guardian