Walking more could lower risk your risk of death

Walking more could help reduce your risk of death

New research has found that walking at least 8,000 steps a day could lower your risk of death from all causes.

Carried out by researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the National Institute on Aging (NIA), the National Institutes of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the new study looked at 4,840 adults aged 40 and over and asked them to wear accelerometers, a device which tracks movement, for up to seven days.

The participants were then followed for a number of years to see who died, and from what cause.

The findings, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed that after taking into account risk factors such as body mass index (BMI) and the health of participants at the start of the study, walking 8,000 steps per day appeared to be linked with a 51 percent lower risk of death from all causes, compared with walking 4,000 steps per day, which is considered to be a low amount for adults.

Moreover, walking 12,000 steps per day was associated with a 65 percent lower risk, compared with walking 4,000 steps.

Walking more was also associated with a lower risk of death in both men and women, younger and older age groups, and among white, black, and Mexican-American adults.

The researchers were surprised to find that there appeared to be no link between the participants' "step intensity," which is how many steps they took per minute, and their risk of death after taking into account steps per day. However, as there are few studies looking into the association between step intensity and mortality risk, the team suggests that further studies are needed.

"While we knew physical activity is good for you, we didn't know how many steps per day you need to take to lower your mortality risk or whether stepping at a higher intensity makes a difference," said Pedro Saint-Maurice, PhD, first author of the study. "We wanted to investigate this question to provide new insights that could help people better understand the health implications of the step counts they get from fitness trackers and phone apps."

"At NIA, we've long studied how exercise is important for older adults, and it's good to see further evidence from a large study with a broad sample that the main thing is to get moving for better overall health as we age," added co-author Eric Shiroma, PhD.

The researchers did note that the study is observational and so cannot establish a cause and effect. However, the findings are in line with previous research and current recommendations that adults should move more and sit less throughout the day. 

"Being physically active has many benefits, including reducing a person's risk of obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. And on a daily basis, it can help people feel better and sleep better," said co-author Janet Fulton, PhD.