You must get 10000 steps/day? Whether it’s a friend, a family member, or an influencer you follow, many of us have likely heard of the 10000-step goal that many people strive to achieve every day. It is well understood that movement and exercise are the cornerstone of good health and achieving 10000 steps may seem like a rewarding way to achieve one’s daily exercise. However, is there any truth behind this? Is it worth your while? This is what researchers Yujia and his colleagues set to find out (1). The team of researchers performed a systematic review and meta-analysis looking at the association between daily step count and all-cause mortality. They what?!?! In simple terms, they used the most credible research design method to study how daily step count affected the likelihood of death. After filtering through various studies and combining the results, they established 4 main subgroups: those that got <4000 steps/day, between 4000 and 6500, between 6500-10000 steps/day, and >10000 steps/day. When comparing to those that got <4000 steps/day, individuals who got between 4000 and 6000 steps/day were at a 37% reduced risk of death. When increasing that to 6500 steps/day, those individuals were at a 60% reduced of death! When looking at our “magical” 10000 step/day group, they were 75% less likely to die than those who got less than 4000 steps/day.
There are 2 main takeaways from this study. First, increasing from very little activity to around 4000 steps/day has massive implications on improving your health and reducing your chance of death and disease. Second, although there is a continual health benefit as steps increase, the more the daily steps you rack up, the less each step quantity increase will benefit in terms of reducing risk of death. Caveat here is that those who were >65 years old saw less of that decline in effectiveness of steps for offsetting all-cause mortality. Okay great, so what does this mean for us?
The way I interpret these results is that walking is an amazing form of exercise! There are, however, diminishing returns, where past a certain point our time would be better spent elsewhere if the intent is to improve health outcomes. Instead of setting the daily step count goal at 10000, I would suggest aiming for 6000-7000/day and delegating the other time to strength training or higher intensities of cardiovascular training. If you’re an individual who loves walking, one way of implementing this would be to increase the intensity of your walks to a brisk walk or doing them on a hill/incline! Another option could be to do your usual walk and add a small jog to the end of it. If you’re a person who finds it tough to get steps in, you could employ strategies such as parking further, getting off the bus a stop early, or taking walk breaks throughout the day (which you should be doing for the sake of spinal health and preventing static posture related pain anyway!). Although it doesn’t replace a strength training and proper cardiovascular training regime, walking is a simple and effective form of movement that most people can easily implement into their daily routine!
Liu Y;Sun Z;Wang X;Chen T;Yang C; (n.d.). Dose-response association between the daily step count and all-cause mortality: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of sports sciences. Retrieved April 18, 2023, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35819337/