“My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the hell she is”. – Ellen Degeneres
Walking…We do it daily without thinking about it. Some more than others..
While it makes common sense that walking more is beneficial, you might be surprised at just how beneficial it can be for overall health.
We don’t tend to think of walking as an intervention that extends our lives, lowers disease risk and keeps us mentally agile.
A study released last month in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that participants who took at least 7000 steps/d, compared with those taking fewer than 7000 steps/d, had a 50% to 70% lower risk of mortality.
Steps were grouped into low (5166-6392 steps/d), moderate (7822-9278 steps/d), and high (10 826-13 588 steps/d) step categories.
Study was controlled for diet, age, race, smoking history and body weight.
Participants in the low step group had higher BMI, lower self-rated health, and higher prevalence of stage 2 hypertension and diabetes than the moderate and high step volume groups.
Similar to our findings, the NHANES study of 6355 men and women (mean age, 57 years) found that higher step volumes of 8000 to 12 000 steps/d were associated with approximately 50% to 65% reduction in risk of mortality compared with the 4000 step/d group.
And what’s more,
- Stepping intensity in this study was not associated with mortality. (This is still a debatable factor as other studies have shown increased benefits to higher intensities).
- Getting 9500 steps per day resulted in a 35% lower risk of cardiac events than 3500 steps per day.
- This study didn’t appear to demonstrate increased mortality benefits beyond 10,000 steps.
- Older adults may require a lower volume of activity to gain similar improvements in fitness and functional status and achieve health benefits.
What to do with this?
If you’re already walking a pretty decent amount – keep going!
Don’t worry about hitting a certain threshold with your walking. If you are currently averaging 4000 steps, aim for 5000 or 6000, if you’re at 5000, aim for 6 or 7k. Studies have shown step-wise health improvements from 2000 to 3000 steps, 3000 to 4000 etc.
Get a wearable to track your steps. This is a solid investment in self-awareness and has been shown to increase step counts – by over a mile’s worth in some studies.
Make walking a default activity. Set up a daily ritual that includes going for a walk. Even if it’s a short walk. Continue to strive to eat nutrient dense foods, lift weights and enjoy your social relationships.