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Walking just 7000 steps a day will help you live longer

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Walking every day will help you live longer—and you don’t have to walk the expected 10,000 steps to get those health benefits.

It’s enough to walk just 7000 steps a day, and that appears to be the optimum amount everyone should be aiming for.  If you do, your risk of a premature death drops by between 50 and 70 percent—but walking much more than 10,000 steps a day doesn’t reduce that risk any further, and nor does walking at a faster pace.

People who don’t walk 7000 steps are at the greatest risk of dying prematurely, say researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, who looked at the walking habits of 2,110 people with an average age of 45.

They divided the group into those who walked fewer than 7000 steps, others who walked between 7000 and 10,000 steps, and the rest who walked more than 10,000 steps every day.  They then tracked their health for 11 years.

The researchers discovered that the 10,000-step target was more an urban myth than scientifically supported health advice.  “There were substantial health benefits between 7000 and 10,000 steps, but we didn’t see an additional benefit from going beyond 10,000 steps,” said researcher Amanda Paluch.

The real gain was seen among those who weren’t walking very far and, for them, walking more than 4000 steps every day was an important first level to reach, and then slowly increase that to 7000 steps. 

Within the 7000 to 10,000 steps band, there was an incremental increase in health benefits for every1000 more steps walked—so, for instance, people walking 8000 steps saw their premature death risk drop more than for someone who walked 7000 steps.

But walking more than 10,000 steps, or walking faster, didn’t confer any greater benefits.

(Source: JAMA Network Open, 2021; 4: e2124518)

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