Just 4,000 steps a day could be enough to reduce a person’s risk of early death, according to a new study – but academics found people reap more health benefits from every additional step.
Fitness trackers and smart phones mean that people are more focused than ever on achieving the lauded 10,000 steps a day.
But the new study, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, found that the number of steps a person needs to walk each day to benefit their health could be lower than previously thought.
Researchers found that walking at least 3,967 steps a day helped a person start to reduce their risk of dying from any cause.
And walking at least 2,337 steps a day started to reduce the risk of dying from heart diseases.
The study, the largest of its kind to date, did conclude that the more a person walks, the lower the risk of premature death.
Even if people walked as many as 20,000 steps a day, the health benefits continued to increase, they said.
They found that the risk of dying from any cause or from cardiovascular disease – diseases of the heart and blood vessels – decreases significantly with every 500 to 1,000 extra steps a person walks.
Indeed an extra 1,000 steps a day was associated with a 15% reduction in the risk of dying from any cause, and an increase of 500 steps a day was associated with a 7% reduction in dying from cardiovascular disease.
Academics, led by Maciej Banach, professor of cardiology at the Medical University of Lodz in Poland, and adjunct professor at the Ciccarone Centre for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the US, examined 17 different studied with information on almost 227,000 people.
People were tracked for an average of seven years.
“Our study confirms that the more you walk, the better,” said Prof Banach.
“We found that this applied to both men and women, irrespective of age, and irrespective of whether you live in a temperate, sub-tropical or sub-polar region of the world, or a region with a mixture of climates.
“In addition, our analysis indicates that as little as 4,000 steps a day are needed to significantly reduce deaths from any cause, and even fewer to reduce deaths from cardiovascular disease.”
“In a world where we have more and more advanced drugs to target specific conditions such as cardiovascular disease, I believe we should always emphasise that lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise, which was a main hero of our analysis, might be at least as, or even more effective in reducing cardiovascular risk and prolonging lives.”
Dr Ibadete Bytyci, from the University Clinical Centre of Kosovo, and senior author of the paper, added: “Until now, it’s not been clear what is the optimal number of steps, both in terms of the cut-off points over which we can start to see health benefits, and the upper limit, if any, and the role this plays in people’s health. However, I should emphasise that there were limited data available on step counts up to 20,000 a day, and so these results need to be confirmed in larger groups of people.”
Health officials in England previously urged people to focus on increase the pace of their walking, rather than just focus on the distance or number of steps.
People should “focus on brisk walking, not just 10,000 steps”, according to 2018 advice from Public Health England and the Royal College of GPs.