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Scientists prove how many daily steps you should take to avoid early death

In a significant shift from the common belief that individuals should aim for 10,000 steps daily for optimal health, a new international study spearheaded by the University of Granada has established a different standard.

The research not only highlights the ideal number of daily steps people should target but also emphasizes the health advantages of the walking pace.

Dissecting the myth of 10,000 daily steps

The notion advocating for 10,000 daily steps, originating in Japan around the 1960s, was widely accepted but lacked substantial scientific backing.

This recent study demystifies that number, pointing out that the key to reducing the risk of premature death significantly lies in accomplishing approximately 7,000 daily steps.

This translates to about 6.4 kilometers (4 miles) per day, given the average human stride. The research also delineates that the pace of walking fortifies the health benefits gained.

Optimal daily step count

The study is the product of collaboration among specialists from various international institutions. These include the Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands, the Universities of Granada and Castilla-La Mancha in Spain, and Iowa State University in the United States.

Francisco B. Ortega is the study’s lead author and a professor at the UGR’s Department of Physical Education and Sports. He explained, “We’ve demonstrated that more steps are always better, and there’s no evidence to suggest a step count that could be harmful to health.”

Ortega emphasized that reaching between 7,000 and 9,000 daily steps emerges as a practical health objective for the majority. The revelation comes after a comprehensive literature review and meta-analysis encompassing data from twelve international studies, which collectively involved more than 110,000 participants.

From 10,000 to 7,000: Establishing clear targets

Esmée Bakker, a Marie Curie Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Granada and a principal author of the study, shared insights distinguishing this research from others.

“What sets our study apart is the establishment of clear step goals. We indicate that health improvements are observable with minor increases in daily steps, especially for individuals presently less active,” she stated.

According to the findings, even incremental objectives like an additional 500 daily steps could offer health improvements. This recommendation is particularly encouraging for those who find the prospect of nearly 9,000 steps daunting.

Fast walking enhances benefits

The study doesn’t stop at just quantifying steps. It further uncovers that the speed at which a person walks plays a crucial role. Faster walking correlates with a lower mortality risk, irrespective of the total daily steps. The researchers also found these results consistent across genders.

Moreover, the study’s insights extend to practicality. It underscores that the means of counting steps, whether through a smartwatch, a wrist-based tracker, or a smartphone, doesn’t influence the outcomes.

Health benefits at every age

One might wonder if ceasing to walk beyond approximately 9,000 steps is advisable. “Absolutely not,” asserts Francisco B. Ortega. The research indicates no upper limit to harmful steps.

Ortega notes that walking as many as 16,000 steps daily still showcases health advantages, albeit with diminishing risk reductions beyond the 7,000-9,000 step bracket.

Importantly, the study advocates for age-appropriate step targets. Younger individuals might have higher step goals compared to their older counterparts.

Notably, the research scope was confined to analyzing the effects on all-cause mortality and cardiovascular diseases. A broad spectrum of scientific literature suggests that moderate to vigorous physical activities correlate with numerous other health benefits.

Daily steps simplify public health goals

The significance of this study is not just in its scientific findings but also in its practical implications. National physical activity guidelines recommending 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise weekly often leave individuals at a crossroads. Most people are unsure about exercise intensity, or whether their activities meet these standards.

Counting steps simplifies this. It offers a tangible, measurable goal that most people can track thanks to prevalent technology like smartphones and wearable devices.

In summary, the study serves as a beacon, guiding individuals towards achievable health goals through walking. By establishing a more accessible target and recognizing the role of walking pace, the research paves the way for enhanced public health strategies. It encourages communities to step up — quite literally — for their health.

The full study was published in Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

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