An international study conducted by the University of Granada has for the first time identified the optimal number of steps that most people benefit from, and also shows that the pace at which you walk brings additional benefits.
The idea that one should take 10,000 steps a day originated in Japan in the sixties of the last century, but it had no scientific basis. Researchers have now shown that if we focus on the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, most of the benefits are seen at around 7,000 steps.
An international study conducted by the University of Granada (UGR) provided the first scientific evidence of how many steps you need to take per day to significantly reduce the risk of premature death: 8000. Considering the average length of a human stride (76 centimeters for men and 67 centimeters for women), taking 8,000 steps is equivalent to walking approximately 6.4 kilometers per day.
Researchers have also shown that the pace at which we walk has additional benefits, and that walking fast is better than walking slowly. In terms of risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, most benefits are seen at around 7,000 steps.
The study, published this week in one of the world’s leading cardiology journals (Journal of the American College of Cardiology), establishes for the first time the optimal number of steps at which most people benefit the most, and also shows that the pace at which you walk provides additional benefits.
The research was carried out in collaboration with Dutch researchers (Radboud University Medical Center), Spain (Universities of Granada and Castilla-La Mancha) and the United States (Iowa State University).
“Traditionally, many people thought you had to take about 10,000 steps a day to have health benefits—an idea that came from Japan in the 1960s but had no basis in science,” explains the study’s lead author, Francisco B. Ortega, a professor at Department of Physical Education and Sports UGR.
Previously, without a scientific basis
For example, the first pedometer marketed to the general public was a “10,000 step meter” (literal translation), but the number had no scientific basis. “We’ve shown for the first time that the more steps you take, the better, and that there is no such thing as too many steps that have been proven to be harmful to health,” says Ortega, who also points out that reaching 7,000-9,000 steps a day is a sensible health goal for most people. .
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 consistent with other recent studies showing that health benefits are achieved at less than 10,000 steps. “What makes our study different is that for the first time we set clear step targets,” explains Esmée Bakker, currently a Marie Curie postdoctoral researcher at the University of Granada and one of the study’s lead authors.
“In this study, we show that measurable benefits can be achieved by small increases in the number of steps per day, and that for people with low levels of physical activity, every additional 500 steps improves their health. This is good news because not everyone can walk nearly 9,000 steps a day, at least not in at the beginning, so you can set small, achievable goals and gradually progress and increase the number of steps per day,” the researchers note.
The study showed no difference between men and women. It was also found that faster walking was associated with a reduced risk of mortality, regardless of the total number of steps per day. Additionally, according to Bakker, “it doesn’t matter how you count your steps, whether you’re wearing a smartwatch, an activity tracker on your wrist or a smartphone in your pocket: the target number of steps is the same.”
Recommendations for physical activity — steps
So should we stop walking when we reach about nine thousand steps? “Absolutely not,” insists Francisco B. Ortega. “More steps are never bad. Our study showed that even 16,000 steps per day does not pose a risk; on the contrary, there are additional benefits compared to walking 7,000-9,000 steps per day, but the differences in risk reduction are small. Furthermore, the step target should be age-appropriate, with younger people being able to set a higher goal than older people It’s also important to note that our study only looked at the effect on the risk of all-cause mortality and cardiovascular There are other studies and a large body of scientific evidence to show that it’s moderate, so even vigorous physical activity is associated with many health benefits, including improvements in sleep quality and mental health, among many others.”
“Our study gives people clear and easily measurable goals,” Bakker continues. “(Inter)national physical activity recommendations advise adults to get 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. But most people don’t know what exercise counts as moderate-intensity, making it difficult to check their compliance with this exercise standard. Counting steps is much simpler , especially since most people these days have a smartphone or smartwatch. Therein lies the importance of our study: to provide simple and concrete goals for the number of daily steps that people can easily measure with their phones and smartwatches or wristbands, thereby contributing to people’s health.” the authors conclude.