by Cristina Marrone
The first benefits also in terms of prevention of cardiovascular diseases are already obtained with 7,000 steps a day. The benefits increase if the walking pace is also increased
The daily goal of 10,000 steps has become a global must over the years, despite there being no scientific evidence that 10,000 steps are the magic number for staying healthy. In the 1960s, a Japanese company that sold pedometers pulled the number out of nowhere to convince people to buy their product. In recent years, scientists have tried to test the target to see whether the popular health tip is actually consistent with the promises given. Some research they found that the optimal number of steps per day to achieve health benefits is closer to 6,000, and also varies by age. Other research suggests that walking is important, and the more you walk the greater the benefits.
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The first benefits with 7,000 daily steps
Now a new international study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology conducted by the University of Granada identified the optimal number of steps with which the majority of people obtain the greatest benefits in terms of prevention of cardiovascular disease and premature death. The first benefits are seen after the first 7,000 steps, but the ideal number is 8,000 steps. Considering the average length of the human step (76 centimeters for men and 67 centimeters for women), taking 8,000 steps is equivalent to walking about 6.4 kilometers a day. The pace of walking also matters: researchers have in fact also shown that the pace at which we walk has further advantages and that it is better to walk quickly than slowly.
Walking more doesn’t hurt
The first commercialized pedometer – recalls Francisco B. Ortega, professor at the Department of Physical Education and Sport at the University of Granada – was the “10 thousand step pedometer” but this figure had no scientific basis. We have demonstrated – he says – that the more steps you take, the better, and there is no such thing as an excessive number of steps that is harmful to your health, underlining how reaching between 7,000 and 9,000 steps a day is a goal within the reach of most people.
The review on 110 thousand participants
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 showing that health benefits can be achieved with fewer than 10,000 steps. What makes our study different is that, for the first time, we set clear objectives explains Esme Bakker, currently a Marie Curie postdoctoral researcher at the University of Granada and one of the lead authors of the study.
Every 500 additional steps leads to greater health benefits
In this work we demonstrate that measurable benefits can be achieved with small increases in the number of steps per day and that for people with low levels of physical activity, every 500 additional steps improve their health. This is good news because not everyone is able to take almost 9,000 steps a day, at least not right away, so it is possible to set small, achievable goals and gradually increase the number of steps per day, the researchers note. The study revealed no difference between men and women. It has also been found that walking faster is associated with a reduced risk of mortality, regardless of the total number of steps taken per day. Walking speed is a concept that has already emerged in other studies linked to general health benefits and not limited to the prevention of cardiovascular diseases. The ideal pace to maintain to keep away the risks of dementia and cardiovascular diseases is around 80 steps per minute.
So should we stop walking when we get to about nine thousand steps? Absolutely not insists Francisco Ortega. Taking more steps is never a bad thing. Our study found that even taking 16,000 steps a day does not represent a risk; Indeed, there are additional benefits compared to walking 7,000-9,000 steps per day, but the differences in cardiovascular health risk reduction are small. Additionally, step goals should be set based on age, with younger people able to set a higher goal than older people. It is also important to note that our study only examined the effect on the risk of all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease. There are other studies and a large body of scientific evidence that demonstrate that engaging in moderate and even vigorous physical activity is associated with many health benefits, including improvements in sleep quality and mental health. The authors underline how today it is very simple for everyone to count steps since practically everyone owns a smartphone or a smartwatch and therefore the goal of 8,000 steps is really easily measurable.
November 7, 2023 (modified November 7, 2023 | 2.11pm)
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