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Walking can counteract the health risks of sitting

Sitting all day is a well-known health villain. Hence, researchers from the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre have discovered a secret weapon in the fight for better health: walking.

Yes, that simple act of putting one foot in front of the other can dramatically improve your health, regardless of your sitting time. This study invites us to ditch the “all or nothing” mentality and embrace walking as a powerful tool.

Focus of the study

The team analyzed data from over 70,000 individuals to investigate whether daily steps could offset the health risks of sedentary behavior.

The experts used wearable devices to track the number of steps each person took daily and analyzed how this number correlated with the likelihood of developing heart disease or dying. Additionally, they examined how much time participants spent sitting.

Walking benefits for overall health

The study confirmed that walking is a straightforward and attainable method for most people to considerably improve their health. Even taking as few as 2,200 steps daily can contribute to better overall well-being

All of the participants experienced significant improvements in their health when they increased their daily step count.

Optimal daily step count

Experts found that people who walk between 9,000 and 10,500 steps each day are more likely to live longer. This amount of walking appears to be the ideal amount to get the most health benefits without needing to do more strenuous exercise. 

Furthermore, this goal is achievable for most people because it doesn’t require a significant amount of extra time or effort.

Combating the health risks of sitting with walking

Spending a lot of time sitting, like at work or while relaxing, can increase your risk of heart disease and early death. But the good news is that simply walking more each day can significantly lower this risk, even if you don’t sit less. 

The research confirms that taking around 9,000 to 10,000 steps per day is linked to a 39% lower risk of death and a 21% lower risk of heart disease. This is an easy way to improve your health because it doesn’t require major changes to your daily routine.

“This is by no means a get out of jail card for people who are sedentary for excessive periods of time, however, it does hold an important public health message that all movement matters and that people can and should try to offset the health consequences of unavoidable sedentary time by upping their daily step count,” said study lead author Dr. Matthew Ahmadi.

Tips to increase your step count

Increasing your daily steps is a simple way to improve your health. Here are some tips to help you do that:

  • Start your day with a walk: Take a walk in the morning to enjoy the peace and quiet and feel energized for the day.
  • Walk and talk: Take phone calls while walking, whether it’s with a friend or for work.
  • Set reminders to move: Use your phone or watch to remind yourself to stand up and walk around every hour, especially if you sit at a desk all day.
  • Take the stairs: Choose the stairs over the elevator whenever possible. This small change can add many steps to your day.
  • Park further away: When you drive, park further away from the entrance to get some extra steps.
  • Have walking meetings: Suggest walking meetings with your colleagues to get some steps in while you talk about work.
  • Go for a walk during your lunch break: This is a great way to clear your head and get some steps.
  • Take an evening walk: Go for a walk after dinner to help with digestion and spend time with family or relax on your own.
  • Use a pedometer or fitness tracker: Track your daily steps to stay motivated and reach your goals. Many phones have step-tracking apps, or you can use a fitness tracker.
  • Make it fun: Listen to music, podcasts, or audiobooks while you walk, or walk with a friend or family member to make the time go by faster.

“Step count is a tangible and easily understood measure of physical activity that can help people in the community, and indeed health professionals, accurately monitor physical activity,” said study senior author Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis.

“We hope this evidence will inform the first generation of device-based physical activity and sedentary behavior guidelines, which should include key recommendations on daily stepping.”

The study is published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.


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