The World Health Organization (WHO) and other health organizations agree that 10,000 steps a day are recommended to lower the risk of mortality. But is this recommendation accurate, or is it just another trendy myth? Physiotherapists Daniel Markovich and Asaf Etzioni went to check.
Regular walking is associated with a variety of health benefits. The medical literature shows that walking contributes to improving the functioning of the heart, helps balance blood pressure indices, reduces joint pain, improves mood, helps balance diabetes, improves coordination, muscular control and balance, strengthens the immune system, and more.
Do you have to walk 10,000 steps a day? Probably not. A 2023 study review examined the number of steps that need to be taken to reduce the risk of death from any cause and cardiovascular disease. It turns out that it is enough to take a significantly smaller number of steps in order to have a positive impact on your health.
For example, a 500-step walk was found to reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular disease by 7%, while a 1,000-step walk would lead to a 15% reduction in the risk of death from any cause. According to the study, walking just 4,000 steps a day will significantly reduce the risk of death from any cause or cardiovascular disease.
But what do you do if you want to maximize the effects? Another study published in 2022 found that walking, for people over 60 can lead to a 40-53% reduction in risk of death from all causes and cardiovascular disease.
According to the findings, the upper limit is between 6,000 and 8,000 steps per day, and in young people up to the age of 60 between 8,000 and 10,000 steps. In addition, an American study found that people who walked 8,000 steps at a frequency of two days a week also had a significant reduction in mortality rates.
Does the pace of the walk have an effect? A study looked at the effect of pace on decrease in mortality rates. The analysis notes that past studies on the subject correlate the pace of steps with a decrease in mortality rates, but criticizes the small amount of research available and the way that the researchers chose to examine the subject.
They found that people who tend to walk faster also walk more steps per day, so the same results on reduced mortality rates are probably explained by the number of steps rather than the intensity of the walk itself. Thus, the hypothesis from the present study showed that the pace doesn't impact mortality rates.
What about other sports activities? Another study found that exercise reduces the risk of mental illness, respiratory disorders, cancer, and cardiovascular disease, so if you do any other type of activity, you’re probably on the right side of the statistics.
According to the study, exercising at moderate intensity for 15 minutes a day, or for 92 minutes a week, can reduce the risk of death from any cause by 14%. Each additional 15 minutes of activity per day reduces the risk of death by an additional 4%.
In conclusion, the recommendations from the research surveys we examined show that in order to enjoy significant health benefits, one should strive to walk at least 4,000 steps a day, with the upper limit between 8,000 and 10,000 steps, depending on your age group.