But more is better, so if your patients reach 10,000 steps a day, tell them to keep it up.
Walking just 2,337 steps a day reduces risk of death from cardiovascular disease, and 4,000 steps a day reduces all-cause mortality.
A new meta-analysis of studies found walking is good for health for people young and old, no matter where they live.
“Due to its high prevalence, sedentary behaviour is referred to as the disease of the 21st century,” the researchers wrote in “Daily steps and mortality: a dose-response meta-analysis,” published by the European Society of Cardiology in its European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
The remedy? Walk it off.
“The simplest form of physical activity is walking,” and there is good evidence showing it leads to lower risk of CV disease and general ill health, the researchers said.
How much should people walk? The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 10,000 steps per day, but “the optimal number of steps and their role in health is, however, still unclear,” the study said.
The new meta-analysis found health benefits start at 3,967 steps per day to reduce all-cause mortality and 2,337 steps per day to cut the risk of CV mortality.
More stepping lively is better for life. Every 1,000 steps added led to a 15% reduction in all-cause mortality, while 500-step increments dropped CV mortality risk by 7%. It was the first study to examine effects of walking up to 20,000 steps a day, “confirming the more the better.”
“We also confirmed, for the first time, that the associations between step counts and all-cause mortality are comparable in different places of the world,” the study said. The meta-analysis included 17 studies involving 226,889 people from Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, Japan, Norway, and Spain, with a median follow-up of 7.1 years.
The researchers noted the findings undermine the definition of a sedentary life, usually defined as less than 5,000 steps a day.
The World Health Organization estimates insufficient physical activity is the fourth-leading cause of death in the world, related to 3.2 million deaths a year, and about 1.5 billion people worldwide, are physically inactive. The researchers noted 81% of adolescents worldwide undertake insufficient physical activity.
Walking decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic and physical activity has not returned to pre-pandemic levels.
“Consequently, every effort should be made to improve the global level of physical activity,” the meta-analysis said, although any approach to do so needs a recommendation for a defined level of physical activity.
The researchers noted more people are using smart watches, phones, and pedometers to monitor their physical activity, and those can lead to more steps a day, short-term and long-term.