Getting in enough physical activity is absolutely crucial to staying healthy, especially as you age. And with the advent of new technology like smartphones and wearable monitors, counting steps has quickly become a popular way to keep track of just how much you're moving. But what should your daily walking goal be? According to a new study, there is a minimum number of steps you should be getting in each day that could lower your risk of early death. Read on to see what's needed to add years to your life.
Getting in at least 2,000 steps each day slashes your death risk.
In a recent study, researchers outfitted 16,732 women over the age of 60—with an average age of 72—with waist step counters to measure their walking patterns and daily steps for periods of four to seven days. Researchers then divided the number of steps taken by participants into two groups: bouts of 10 minutes or longer with few interruptions; and short spurts of steps, such as doing housework or walking out to a car.
The researchers then tracked participants for an average of six years and noted deaths from any cause. The results showed that women who took at least 2,000 steps daily saw a 32 decrease in the chance of death and that those who took up to 4,500 steps saw an even greater reduction in death risk.
Both shorts spurts and long, interrupted sets of steps can help add years to your life.
The research, which will be presented at the American Heart Association's Epidemiology, Prevention, Lifestyle&Cardiometabolic Health Conference 2021, also discovered that the length of walking sessions didn't have an overall effect on health outcomes: both short and long sessions saw the same results. "Our current results indicate that this finding holds even for women who did not engage in any uninterrupted bouts of walking," Christopher Moore, the study's lead author and a PhD student in epidemiology at the University of North Carolina, said in a media release.
Moore also credited the availability of easy-to-use step counters as a landmark event in monitoring our health. "Technological advances made in recent decades have allowed researchers to measure short spurts of activity. Whereas, in the past, we were limited to only measuring activities people could recall on a questionnaire," he said. "With the help of wearable devices, more research is indicating that any type of movement is better than remaining sedentary."
The results show that even everyday activities can go a long way in staying healthy.
Moore pointed out that the results prove traditional exercises may not always be necessary for seniors to stay fit. Instead, simply finding ways to get in extra steps could have major health benefits.
"Older adults face many barriers to participating in structured exercise programs, so some may find it more convenient and enjoyable to increase everyday walking behaviors, like parking slightly further from their destination or doing some extra housework or yard work," he said in the release.
Other studies have found that getting in too few steps can have negative health effects.
This isn't the only recent research to have shown that there seems to be a base minimum for daily movement. In a Feb. 2021 report, researchers at the University of Texas at Austin found that those who walk fewer than 5,000 steps a day were less able to metabolize fat the day following their inactivity.
This suggests that a buildup of body fat could lead to health complications, such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes due to a sedentary lifestyle, The Conversation reports.