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How many steps a day do you really need to live longer? The magic number is not 10,000, the study concludes

The researchers say the old theory of step counting has “no basis in science”, suggesting that the pace at which you walk also plays a key role.

GRANADA, Spain — How many steps should you take every day for a longer and healthier life? Many people cling to the long-held conclusion that it’s 10,000 steps, but a new study debunks this popular myth. Researchers from the University of Granada, in collaboration with other international institutions, believe they have found the definitive answer once and for all. Their study shows that the optimal number of daily steps for a significant improvement in health is actually about 8,000, which is equivalent to walking approximately 6.4 kilometers, taking into account the average human step.

The magic formula of “10,000 steps a day” originated in Japan in the 1960s and, as lead author Professor Francisco B. Ortega explained, “had no basis in science.” It was more of a marketing strategy for a new pedometer than a research-based health standard. This new study not only corrects the question of how many daily steps you need, but adds a fascinating twist: the pace at which you walk is important. Brisk walkers reap additional health rewards, particularly in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, where the most significant benefits are seen at around 7,000 steps.

What does this mean for the average person? In essence, it’s not about piling up the stairs, it’s about adopting more fast walking habit and aiming for an achievable goal, especially for those whose current levels of physical activity are low. The researchers emphasize the notion of progression, where “every an additional 500 steps improves their health.”

“Not everyone can walk nearly 9,000 steps a day, at least not at first, so you can set small, achievable goals and gradually progress,” the research team notes, suggesting an approach that’s less intimidating and more tailored to individual abilities.

Lace-up sneakers for runners, wearing fitness trackers before exercise
If you use a fitness tracker to track your daily steps, a new study says aiming for 8,000 is the goal for a longer, healthier life. (Photographed by Onur Binay on Unsplash)

10,000 steps a day is fine, but ‘differences in risk reduction are small’

This comprehensive study was no small-scale undertaking. The team conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of twelve international studies, which included over 110,000 participants, to arrive at these figures. Esmée Bakker, Marie Curie postdoctoral researcher at the University of Granada and lead author of the study, emphasizes the uniqueness of their work: “What makes our study different is that for the first time we set clear step goals.”

Although the study advocates the benefits of increasing the number of steps per day, it does not set an upper limit. Professor Francisco B. Ortega explains ua statement“More steps they are never bad. Our research showed that even 16,000 steps a 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.”

However, Ortega emphasizes the importance of age-appropriate goals and acknowledges that the focus of the study was primarily on reduction risk of early deathspecifically from heart problems. The wide range of benefits of physical activity, including improvements in mental health and sleep quality, require an inclusive approach that goes beyond simply counting steps.

In a world where most adults struggle with incorporating the recommended 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise into their weekly routine, often due to confusion over what qualifies as “moderate” exercise, this research provides a tangible solution. With a spread use of smartphones and fitness trackerstracking daily steps becomes a practical, accessible fitness goal.

“Our study gives people clear and easily measurable goals,” concludes Bakker, noting the research’s potential impact on public health. By simplifying health guidelines to a specific daily number of steps, the study encourages more people to engage in physical activity, thus contributing positively to the global health and wellness trends.

This one the latest research was published in Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

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