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You Don’t Have to Get in 10,000 Steps a Day — Here’s How Many You Actually Need to Stay Healthy


How often have you heard that you need to walk 10,000 steps per day in order to stay healthy? The recommendation has been around for years, but there’s never been any scientific backing behind it. Now, there’s a little good news thanks to a recent study in JAMA Network: You don’t actually need to hit that number to see the benefits.

Given that the original 10,000 steps rule was actually part of a marketing campaign for a Japanese pedometer decades ago, researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst decided to put the recommendation to the test. To do this, they analyzed data from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study, which started in 1985 and is still active today. More specifically, they looked at part of the survey where 2,100 middle-aged and older participants wore an accelerometer for 11 years starting in 2005 and 2006.

Parsing the numbers, scientists separated subjects into three groups: A low-volume group who got below 7,000 steps per day, a moderate-volume group of roughly 7,000-10,000 steps per day, and a high-volume group that got over 10,000 steps per day. They then cross-referenced that data with mortality rates and participants’ overall health.

What they found is that people’s risk of mortality was generally lowered the more steps they walked. More importantly, completing roughly 7,000 steps a day led to a 50 to 70 percent decrease in risk of premature death, and all additional health benefits tapered off entirely after around 10,000 steps. In other words, getting in any steps is better than none, but you don’t need to stress about completing the full 10,000 every day to see massive improvements to your health. Just 7,000 per day will do the trick!

Researchers hope that their work is encouraging to folks who are intimidated by the old 10,000 steps rule. “Preventing those deaths before average life expectancy – that is a big deal,” study author Amanda Paluch, PhD said in a press release about walking 7,000 steps daily. “Showing that steps per day could be associated with premature mortality is a new contribution to the field.”

It’s time to lace up those shoes!

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