How many steps a day is enough? Health benefits may start at 2,500

Evan Walker
Evan Walker TheMediTary.Com |
Painted footprints on a sidewalk.Share on Pinterest
Walking every day has several Health benefits. HIGHLANDER/Stocksy
  • A new meta-study of 12 other studies brings clarity to confusion regarding the most beneficial number of steps one should walk each day.
  • The study indicates that benefits begin with as few as around 2,500 daily steps and rise from there.
  • For the optimal reduction in all-cause mortality and cardiovascular risk, however, a person should walk around 9,000 and 7,000 steps daily, respectively.

Over the last several years, studies have been trying to answer the question: “How many steps a day should I walk to derive a Health benefit?” A new meta-study analyzes the results of 12 such investigations, and its conclusions may provide the most definitive answer yet.

The study finds that health benefits begin at between 2,500 and 2,700 steps a day. For the strongest defense against cardiovascular disease, around 7,000 daily steps is the magic number (precisely 7,126), and the greatest reduction in the risk of mortality occurs with about 9,000 steps each day (8,763 steps).

For people walking 2,500 steps, the risk of all-cause death was reduced by 8%, while cardiovascular events were reduced by 11% with 2,700 steps. At 9,000 steps a day, the chance of dying early is reduced by 60%. Walking 7,000 steps lowers one’s chances of cardiovascular disease by 51%.

The much-cited goal of walking 10,000 steps per day has been largely debunked. It originated in an advertisement for a pedometer in 1964 and was not backed by any scientific research.

The authors of the study also found that additional health benefits are associated with intermediate and high walking speeds in addition to the benefits associated with step counts.

The 12 studies included in the meta-study encompassed health records for 111,309 individuals who wore accelerometers, or fitness trackers.

The study was published in the Journal of American Cardiology.

“This is the first study to objectively quantify the minimal and optimal stepping volume for Health outcomes,” said senior investigator Dr. Thijs M.H. Eijsvogels.

“We also found that these step targets were independent of sex, device type, or wearable location, reinforcing the robustness of our findings and the possibility to add these step targets to future physical activity guidelines,” said Dr. Eijsvogels.

Dr. Amanda Paluch, assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of Massachusetts, and member of the Steps for Health Collaborative, who was not involved in the current meta-study, said, “This study reiterates what we have seen in our previous work. Move more and sit less. It is not an all-or-nothing situation.”

Dr. Cheng Ha-Chen, cardiologist and medical director of the Structural Heart Program at Saddleback Medical Center, who was also not involved in the study, was pleased that the study “gives us lots of [step] targets.

Dr. Paluch suggested that no matter one’s number of daily steps, it is a good idea to set incremental goals that increase step counts over time.

If one is taking 10,000 steps per day, that is no problem. “These results are not an indication that taking more than 10,000 steps may be harmful. There just appears to be diminishing returns at these higher levels,” noted Dr. Paluch.

Dr. Jayne Morgan, cardiologist and clinical director of the Covid Task Force at the Piedmont Healthcare Corporation in Atlanta, GA, was also not involved in the study, explained, “In fact, a decrease in mortality continues to be seen at up to 8,763 steps, and a reduced cardiovascular risk/incidence is realized up to 7,126 steps.”

“This is almost a full 1.5 miles less than the often-touted 10,000-step recommendation,” said Dr. Morgan.

Share this Article