Advertisement

Taking At Least 7,000 Steps Per Day May Reduce Death Risk in Middle Age

Text Size:
Taking At Least 7,000 Steps Per Day May Reduce Death Risk in Middle Age

Middle-aged adults were less likely to die from all causes over a decade if they took at least 7,000 steps per day, according to a new study published in the journal JAMA Network Open.

Researchers looked at a group of 2,110 people ages 38 to 50 — including both white and Black adults — over a period averaging 10.8 years. At the beginning of the study, participants wore a step-counting device for a week. Researchers calculated a variety of step-related measures from this period, including the average number of steps per day, the highest number of steps taken during any 30 minutes (not necessarily 30 minutes in a row) during a day, and the number of minutes each day during which participants took 100 or more steps. These last two measures are different ways to look at step intensity, or how quickly participants took steps during certain periods of their day.

To get cutting-edge diabetes news, strategies for blood glucose management, nutrition tips, healthy recipes, and more delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our free newsletters!

Advertisement

The main outcome the researchers were interested in was death from any cause, which they recorded based on a number of different available sources including hospital records, death certificates, and autopsy reports. Participants or their designated contacts were contacted twice each year as an initial way to confirm that they were still alive, or had died. The researchers also used a set of procedures to record the cause of death in participants who had died.

At least 7,000 steps per day linked to significantly lower risk of death

Overall, participants took a median of 9,146 steps per day during the week of wearing a step-counting device. During the follow-up period — a total of 22,845 person-years — 72 participants (3.4%) died. After adjusting for a wide variety of differences between participants who took different numbers of steps — including age, race, education levels, and smoking status — the researchers found that compared with those who took fewer than 7,000 steps per day, those who took at least 7,000 but fewer than 10,000 steps were 72% less likely to die. Those who took 10,000 or more steps, on the other hand, were only 55% less likely to die than those who took fewer than 7,000 steps per day — still a major difference. Among white participants, the death risk in those who took at least 7,000 steps per day dropped by 63%, while in Black participants it dropped by 70%. Among women, taking at least 7,000 steps was linked to a 72% lower death risk, while among men the death risk dropped by 58%.

Importantly, the researchers found no significant link between step intensity — measured by either the number of steps taken during the most active 30 minutes, or the number of minutes with 100 or more steps — and death risk. When all participants were divided into three groups based on 30-minute step intensity, the highest-intensity group saw a 2% higher risk of death than the lowest-intensity group — a meaningless difference. When a similar division was made based on the number of minutes with 100 steps or more, the highest-intensity group saw a 28% lower risk of death than the lowest-intensity group — still not a statistically significant difference based on the number of participants.

The researchers concluded that the number of steps taken daily is a better predictor of death risk than step intensity among middle-aged adults, and that taking at least 7,000 steps daily is significantly linked to a lower risk of death from all causes. “Improving physical activity levels in the least active segment of the population by encouraging increasing steps [per day] may be associated with lower mortality risk,” they wrote. More research is needed, though, to try to separate the effects of taking more steps from other healthy behaviors that may reduce the risk of death.

Want to learn more about walking for health? Read “The Health Benefits of Walking,” then try your hand at our quiz, “Diabetes and Walking Benefits.”

Quinn Phillips

Quinn Phillips

Quinn Phillips on social media

A freelance health writer and editor based in Wisconsin, Phillips has a degree from Harvard University. He is a former Editorial Assistant for Diabetes Self-Management and has years of experience covering diabetes and related health conditions. Phillips writes on a variety of topics, but is especially interested in the intersection of health and public policy.

Get Diabetes-Friendly Recipes In Your Inbox

Sign up for Free

Stay Up To Date On News & Advice For Diabetes

Sign up for Free

Get On Track With Daily Lifestyle Tips

Sign up for Free

Save Your Favorites

Save This Article