Count your steps for better health

Created date

May 4th, 2020
A woman stops her exercises to take a drink of water. She has a pink pedometer on her wrist.

The number of steps you take, not the intensity or speed of those steps, is linked with lower mortality from all causes, according to a new study.

The number of steps you take, not the intensity or speed of those steps, is linked with lower mortality from all causes, according to a new study.

Knowing how popular step counters are among people, scientists from the National Institute on Aging, the National Cancer Institute, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention set out to investigate more about how the number of daily steps affects health.

About 4,800 study participants were recruited from a random sample of U.S. adults age 40 and up. They were asked to wear an accelerometer, which measures the number and speed of steps. The participants wore the device for up to a week between 2003 and 2006. The researchers then followed the group through 2015 for mortality.

Data analysis showed that compared to 4,000 daily steps, taking 8,000 steps was associated with a 51% lower risk of death from all causes. In addition, taking 12,000 daily steps was associated with a 65% lower risk, when compared to 4,000 steps. 

Not always about speed

The researchers controlled for factors such as demographics, health status, and body mass index. They were surprised to find (even after accounting for the numbers of steps taken), that the speed or intensity of steps had no significant effect on risk of death. 

These results are useful, the investigators say, because it’s easy for people to count daily steps using pedometers, apps, and wearable fitness devices. Walking is considered an excellent activity for older adults because it is inexpensive, easy, and safe, and the researchers hope that more seniors will strive for higher step counts. 

The scientists say that more research is needed, especially to investigate more about intensity of exercise and its effect on health. 

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