Step your way to a longer life: the association of daily step count with mortality

movement Apr 30, 2020

Studies have reported that taking 4,000 or fewer steps a day is considered a low level of physical activity and is associated with the risk of poor health. At StriveStonger, we recommend people set a goal of 10,000 steps a day, a recommendation that is backed by a recent study published in the leading international medical journal, the Journal of the American Medical Association. 

A research team with investigators from NIH's National Cancer Institute (NCI) and National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) looked at the association between step count, intensity, and risk of death in a broader range of the population. Researchers used data on physical activity collected by a national health survey, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), between 2003-2006. In the study, data were collected from people aged 40 or older who wore an accelerometer—a device that measures step number and cadence (steps per minute)—during their waking hours for a week. Researchers then collected information on deaths for the next 10 years.

The researchers reported that compared with people who took 4,000 steps a day, those who took 8,000 steps a day at the start of the study had a 50% lower risk of dying from any cause during the 10-year follow-up. People who took 12,000 steps a day had a 65% lower risk of dying than those who took only 4,000. In the study, lower rates were consistent across age, sex, and race groups. The relationship remained even after controlling for diet quality, race/ethnicity, body mass index, education, alcohol consumption, smoking status, medical history of chronic diseases and self-reported general health at the beginning of the study.

Interestingly, step intensity did not seem to impact the risk of mortality once the total number of steps per day was considered with only an increased number of steps per day associated with a reduced risk of death.

Although this study was an observational design, therefore not able to assess cause and effect, the findings are consistent with current recommendations that adults should move more and sit less throughout the day and aiming for between 10,000 and 12000 steps daily has potential long term benefits on longevity.

Study reference: Saint-Maurice, P. F., Troiano, R. P., Bassett, D. R., Jr, Graubard, B. I., Carlson, S. A., Shiroma, E. J., . . . Matthews, C. E. (2020). Association of Daily Step Count and Step Intensity With Mortality Among US Adults. JAMA, 323(12), 1151-1160. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.1382

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