Want to reduce your risk of dying early? Taking 8,000 steps, equivalent to walking approximately 6.4 km a day, can help, according to the study that provides the first scientific proof for optimal number of steps to be taken daily.
The new study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, identifies for the first time the optimal number of steps at which most people obtain the greatest benefits, and also shows that the pace at which you walk provides additional benefits.
"Traditionally, many people thought that you had to reach about 10,000 steps a day to obtain health benefits – an idea that came out of Japan in the 1960s but had no basis in science," said lead author Francisco B. Ortega, Professor at the University of Granada’s (UGR) Department of Physical Education and Sports in Spain.
"We’ve shown for the first time that the more steps you take, the better, and that there is no excessive number of steps that has been proven to be harmful to health," said Ortega, who also points out that reaching 7,000-9,000 steps a day is a sensible health goal for most people.
The researchers conducted a systematic literature review and meta-analysis of data from twelve international studies involving more than 110,000 participants.
The results of this study are in line with other recent studies, which show that health benefits are obtained at less than 10,000 steps.
"In this study, we show that measurable benefits can be obtained with small increases in the number of steps per day, and that for people with low levels of physical activity, every additional 500 steps improves their health," said Esmee Bakker, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the UGR.
"This is good news because not everyone can walk almost 9,000 steps a day, at least not at first, so you can set small, reachable goals and gradually make progress and increase the number of steps per day," the researcher said.
The study revealed no difference between men and women. It also found that faster walking is associated with a reduced risk of mortality, regardless of the total number of steps per day. Additionally, according to Bakker, "it doesn’t matter how you count your steps, whether you wear a smartwatch, a wrist-based activity tracker or a smartphone in your pocket: the step targets are the same".