For as far back as I can remember, 10,000 steps a day has been the Holy Grail of daily physical activity, with the promise of better health and fitness if only we can incorporate 10,000 paces into our day. The principle sounds easy but it is a fairly elusive target for those with sedentary occupations whose daily step count is made up almost entirely of trips to the water cooler and back (a round trip of a mere 32 steps at my last count).
These days smart phones, smart watches and even smart rings can give us very precise information about the exercise we are (or are not) doing, and it can be quite disheartening to have a busy day, rushing what feels like here, there and everywhere, to do a quick step count check and find that the 5,000 step barrier has not even been broken, never mind the 10,000.
The good news is that all is not lost. In fact, the news is even better than that, because a recent publication has shown that as few steps a day as 2,600 has benefits in reducing all-cause mortality, and 2,800 has benefits in reducing cardiovascular events. Perhaps the most striking statistic of all is that a person undertaking 2,735 steps a day has an 11% reduction in cardiovascular risk compared with a person taking 2,000 steps a day. 10,000 steps a day might be an unrealistic target, but I would like to think that most of us could incorporate an extra 735 steps into our day, given the overwhelming reduction in risk that this delivers.
Increases of 1,000 steps a day above 2,800 were associated with additional health benefits, and, far from the 10,000 steps we have been told to aim for up until now, the optimal number of steps for reducing cardiovascular risk was found to be 7,126, and 8,763 for all-cause mortality. There is no reason not to continue to strive for 10,000 steps a day, but step volumes beyond those quoted were not associated with any significant additional health benefits beyond those already obtained.
Independent from the number of steps per day, the intensity with which they are taken is also relevant. Intermediate and high intensity steps were associated with reduced risk for all-cause mortality and cardiovascular events, even if the number of daily steps did not hit the recommended targets.
The moral of the story really is that every step counts and if it is possible to incorporate an extra 1,000 or so steps into a day, the health benefits are significant.
Click here to read the research abstract.