Walking brings health benefits to those in middle age, study finds

Research shows walking can help middle age adults improve their health and live longer.

Health experts have long known that regular walking can help older adults improve their health and live longer. But those same benefits of walking also apply to adults in middle age, a new study finds.

The study tracked the steps of 2,110 adults age 38 to 50 in 2005 and 2006, Participants were balanced by race and gender and categorized according to the number of daily steps they took: low (fewer than 7,000 steps), moderate, (7,000 to 9,999, and high (10,000 or more.) The authors followed up with participants about 11 years later with the goal of examining the associations of step volume and intensity with mortality overall, and by race and sex.

The study found that taking at least 7,000 steps per day lowered the risk of all-cause mortality by between 50% and 70% compared with taking fewer than 7,000 steps. However, taking more than 10,000 steps daily was not associated with any further reduction in mortality risk. The findings were similar across racial and ethnic groups and for men and women.

The findings may have significant clinical implications, the authors say, given that wearable patient monitoring systems are rapidly becoming personalized tools for the monitoring and preventing chronic diseases. They note that the number of people using Fitbit activity trackers has increased from about 500,000 in 2012 to 29.5 million in 2019.

“Steps estimated from these devices could be a simple metric to track and promote physical activity,” they say, adding that “it is important to provide evidence-based recommendations for the number and intensity of steps associated with mortality and other health benefits.”

The study, “Steps per Day and All-Cause Mortality in Middle-aged Adults in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study” was published online September 3 on JAMA Network Open.