Steps per day matter in middle age, but not as many as you may think: ‘Moving a little more is meaningful’

By walking at least 7,000 steps per day, middle-aged adults are less likely to die prematurely from all causes than those who walk fewer steps each day.
Lead author Amanda Paluch, a University of Massachusetts Amherst physical activity epidemiologist, said that walking more than 10,000 steps per days or walking faster did not reduce the risk.

These findings were published in JAMA Network Open. They highlight the ongoing efforts to create evidence-based guidelines for easy, accessible exercise that improves health and longevity. Paluch, an assistant professor of kinesiology at the School of Public Health and Health Sciences, said that 10,000 steps per day is not a scientifically proven guideline. It was created as part of a decades-old marketing campaign to sell a Japanese pedometer.

Paluch and her colleagues were interested in asking one question: How many steps per daily do we need to receive health benefits? She says, "It would be wonderful to know that for a public message on health or for clinician-patient communication."

Researchers analyzed data from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study (CARDIA), which was started in 1985 and continues to be ongoing. In 2005 and 2006, approximately 2,100 participants aged 38 to 50 wore an accelerometer. The accelerometers were worn by approximately 2,100 participants between the ages of 38 and 50 in 2005 or 2006.

Participants were divided into three groups: low-step volume (less than 7,000 per day), medium (between 7,000-9999) and high (10,000.


Paluch states that you see a gradual reduction in mortality risk as you move more. There were significant health benefits for those who took 7,000 to 10,000 steps, but there was no additional benefit for those who took more than 10,000 steps.

She adds that "for people who have walked 4,000 steps, it is worthwhile to get to 5,000." "And between 5,000 and 6,000 steps there is an incremental reduction in all-cause mortality up to approximately 10,000 steps.

This study is particularly informative and interesting because of several features. It was a study that included people in their middle years, whereas most step studies are geared towards older adults. The findings could be used to help people live longer, and prevent premature death as some of the participants did.

Paluch states, "Preventing deaths before the average life expectancy is a huge deal." "Showing that premature mortality could be linked to steps per day is a new contribution in the field."

There were equal numbers of Black and White participants, as well as men and women. Women and Blacks had lower death rates than their more sedentary counterparts when they walked at least 7,000 steps daily. However, the study only included a small number of deaths and Paluch warns that more diverse populations are needed to determine statistically significant differences in sex and races.

Paluch is keen to continue research on the effects of walking every day on your health, and how walking can be beneficial at all stages of life.

She says, "We only looked at one outcome here -- all cause deaths." "The association could look very different depending on what outcome you choose."