For adults over 60 years of age and older, the risk of premature death levelled off at about 6,000-8,000 steps per day, meaning that more steps than that provided no additional benefit for longevity. Adults younger than 60 saw the risk of premature death stabilize at about 8,000 to 10,000 steps per day, said the study conducted by University of Massachusetts.
The study analysed 15 studies covering 47,471 adults from Asia, Australia, Europe and North America to look at the correlation between the optimum number of steps per day and reduced risk of death. “Adults in the highest steps per day quartile had a 40% to 53% lower risk of mortality. Taking more steps per day was associated with a progressively lower risk of all-cause mortality,” the study added.
The Lancet study said that the steps per day is a simple and easy to interpret measure that could be used to promote health messages among people. “Wearable devices that monitor steps, such as smartphones and fitness trackers, have substantially increased in popularity over the past decade and this popularity is expected to continue to increase. Many consumers rely on the number of steps provided from these devices to monitor their physical activity,” said the study.
Dr Aashish Contractor from H N Reliance Hospital, Girgaum, said the 10,000-step-a-day theory was a part of a marketing campaign of a Japanese manufacturer of pedometers. “There was no scientific study done about the 10,000 steps, but newer research has shown that 7,000 could be the magic figure,” said the doctor.
Earlier studies by the University of Massachusetts team showed that men and women who took at least 7,000 steps per day had a 50% to 70% lower risk for mortality than those who took fewer than 7,000 steps per day.
Dr Contractor said that steps should be used as a “motivator tool” to get more active: If one is used to doing 4,000 steps a day, aim for 6,000. “Health-conscious people exercise, and they may cover 3,000 to 5,000 steps during a 30- or 45-minute exercise schedule, but it is important to ensure one takes equal number of steps thereafter in the day,” said Dr Contractor.
The idea is to park the car some distance away from the workplace. “Or use the washroom located a few floors above your office,” he said, adding that “ movement is medicine”.
Dr Amyn Rajani, sports medicine specialist at Breach Candy Hospital, said steps alone cannot be the route to health.
“People may walk 10,000 steps and eat wrong, thereby reducing the impact of the steps. Alternatively, one may take only 5,000 steps a day and follow a good diet and be healthier,” he said. “The pace at which a person walks is also important. A brisk pace will help burn more calories, for instance,” said Dr Rajani.