Even a few extra steps can put you on the path to a longer life, recent research from Europe suggests.
Though many fitness advocates recommend people take 10,000 steps a day, an analysis of 17 studies tracking step counts, death from all causes and particularly from cardiovascular problems found that adding 1,000, or even 500 steps, to your daily routine, could extend your lifespan.
“The message is you don’t need to walk a lot to get large benefits,” said Dr. Maciej Banach, the study’s lead author. He’s head of the department of preventive cardiology and lipidology at the Medical University of Lodz in Poland.
Experts have long endorsed walking as a free and easy way for people to get a wide variety of health benefits, including improved sleep, prevention of weight gain and reduced risks for serious conditions like heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
This research team wanted to get a clearer idea of how many steps might help people live longer.The 226,899 adults in the studies were followed for an average of 7.1 years.
Each increase of 1,000 steps taken daily by participants was associated with a 22% lower chance of dying from all causes, the researchers calculated. Each 500-step increment was linked to a 7% drop in cardiovascular-related deaths.
Banach said the study was limited by the fact that it was based on observation, rather than testing a specific intervention, and could not prove cause and effect. The potential benefits of extra daily steps need to be studied in well-designed, randomized controlled trials of different populations, he said.
Amanda Paluch, who was not involved in the research, said the study provides quantitative evidence of the benefits of walking and reminds us that “any small improvement can be meaningful for your health, particularly if you are not active right now.”
Paluch, the assistant professor of kinesiology in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, noted that while the analysis focused on exercise and lifespan, people should think about walking as a way to lengthen their “health span.”
“It's not just about quantity of years, but quality of years lived,” she said. “Being active can prolong healthy years to play with the grandkids, check off more of those bucket list trips, and simply enjoy daily living without the burdens of disease.”