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  • Dr. CK Bray

How Many Steps Do You Need to Take to Live Longer? Neuroscience in the News!


Exciting new research was released last week on the power of walking and its effect on your longevity. A meta-analysis of 15 studies involving nearly 50,000 people from four continents offers new insights into identifying the amount of daily walking steps that will optimally improve adults' health and longevity - and whether the number of steps is different for people of different ages.

You have heard for years to take 10,000 steps per day. But that oft-repeated mantra grew out of a decades-old marketing campaign for a Japanese pedometer, with no science to back up the impact on health.

Led by University of Massachusetts Amherst physical activity epidemiologist Amanda Paluch, an international group of scientists who formed the Steps for Health Collaborative found that taking more steps a day helps lower the risk of premature death. The findings are reported in a paper published March 2, 2022, in Lancet Public Health.

More specifically, for adults 60 and older, the risk of premature death leveled off at about 6,000-8,000 steps per day, meaning that more steps than that provided no additional benefit for longevity. Conversely, adults younger than 60 saw the risk of premature death stabilize at about 8,000-10,000 steps per day.

"So, what we saw was this incremental reduction in risk as steps increase, until it levels off," Paluch says. "And the leveling occurred at different step values for older versus younger adults."

Interestingly, the research found no definitive association with walking speed beyond the total number of steps per day, Paluch notes. However, getting in your steps – regardless of the pace at which you walked them – was the link to a lower risk of death.

The new research supports and expands findings from another study led by Paluch, published last September in JAMA Network Open, which found that walking at least 7,000 steps a day reduced middle-aged people's risk of premature death.

Exactly how much does walking help? Among the three higher active groups who achieved their steps per day, there was a 40-53% lower risk of death, compared to the lowest quartile group who walked fewer steps, according to the meta-analysis.

 

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