6,000 steps a day touted as new health benchmark
In a breakthrough study, scientists have debunked the long-standing belief that 10,000 daily steps are the key to longevity. Instead, their research suggests a more attainable goal of approximately 6,000 steps per day, especially for older adults. This finding, drawn from a comprehensive analysis of data from four continents, highlights a significant shift in our understanding of physical activity and health.
The study, led by University of Massachusetts Amherst epidemiologist Amanda Paluch, examined data from fifteen studies encompassing tens of thousands of individuals. The results indicate an incremental reduction in health risks with an increase in steps, plateauing at around 6,000 steps daily. This plateau varies with age, occurring at different step counts for older versus younger adults.
Humans, evolutionarily adapted to walking long distances, benefit from any form of walking, not only in physical health but also in mental well-being. However, finding time for physical activity can be challenging, leading to the development of step-counting devices by tech companies. The origin of the 10,000-step goal dates back to a 1964 marketing strategy by Japan’s Yamasa Clock and Instrument Company.
This number, while catchy, lacked scientific substantiation. Recent studies, including Paluch’s 2021 research, have started to shed light on the actual step counts conducive to health benefits. For instance, taking at least 7,000 steps a day was linked to a 50 to 70 percent decrease in premature death risk in middle-aged U.S. adults.
Expanding on this, the 2022 meta-analysis included data on 47,471 adults from various regions, concluding that the top 25 percent of daily steppers had a 40 to 53 percent lower mortality risk than the bottom 25 percent. For individuals over 60, the reduced risk of death peaked at about 6,000 to 8,000 steps per day. The study also found that step volume is more crucial than pace.
While intensive physical activity and strength training offer additional health benefits, this research emphasizes the significance of achieving a minimum daily step count for longevity. This study, published in The Lancet: Public Health, marks a paradigm shift in public health messaging and encourages a more accessible target for maintaining physical health.