Current research suggests that walking 8,000 or more brisk steps a day may be the ideal threshold for experiencing the health benefits of walking.
People who struggle to find time to walk each day of the week will be encouraged by a new study which shows that walking for just one or two days is still associated with a significant reduction in all-cause mortality and cardiovascular mortality. . The study authors found that each additional day of walking brings greater benefits.
Brisk walking of 8,000 steps or more each day of the week is associated with a significant reduction in all-cause mortality and cardiovascular mortality. However, a new study finds that people who take just 8,000 steps one or two days a week are also less likely to die over a 10-year follow-up period.
The study published in JAMA Network Open found that, over a ten-year follow-up period, people aged 20 or older who took 8,000 or more steps one or two days a week had a 14.9% lower risk to die than sedentary people. The risk of death decreases as the number of days increases. For example, exercising three to seven days a week was associated with a 16.5% reduction in all-cause death and cardiovascular death.
The same is true for people who reach goals of 6,000 to 10,000 steps. Previous research has shown that the risk of death decreases by up to 10,000 steps per day for people under 60 and by up to 8,000 steps for people over 60.
The exercise style of the “weekend warriors”
The findings of the study relate both to “weekend warriors”, i.e. people who limit their physical activity to non-workdays, and people who allow themselves a few hours to walk for the week. Brisk walking is defined as walking five kilometers per hour. If you can say the words to a song but not sing them, you are walking briskly.
The current study compared data from a US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2005 and 2006 with data from the National Death Index up to 2019 It integrated accelerometer data from 3,101 participants aged 20 or older and formed a nationally representative sample. It included a similar number of women and men. Participants most likely to walk 8,000 or more steps per day were more often young, male, and married. They have generally never smoked and are less likely to be obese or to have comorbidities.
The daily challenge of walking 8,000 steps
For many people, walking 8,000 steps every day is time-consuming. 8,000 steps is about 6 km, which at a speed of 5 km per hour amounts to a total of about 1 hour and 20 minutes per day. Steps can be taken simultaneously or in shorter periods of brisk walking.
The study was conducted by a researcher from Kyoto University in Japan, in collaboration with researchers from UCLA in California.
This study wanted to answer the question posed by one of the patients during an outpatient consultation: “It is difficult for me to take enough steps each day. Can I concentrate on walking only during the weekend? »
Step count studies often consider a week’s worth of different step goals, and the researcher found a lack of evidence regarding the possible benefits of walking just a few days a week. Given that lack of time is one of the main barriers to physical exercise in modern society, these results provide useful information to recommend walking, even a few days a week, to reduce mortality risk.
This is one of the first studies to use direct measurements of daily steps using a wearable accelerometer over a 10-year follow-up period.
The general health benefits of walking
Walking is considered a simple, low-impact way to make a person’s life less sedentary. A sedentary lifestyle has been associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality and cardiovascular mortality. In addition, a sedentary lifestyle significantly increases the risk of cardiometabolic diseases such as abdominal obesity, hypertension (high blood pressure), type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart disease, certain inflammatory diseases and certain cancers. Walking can help a person maintain a healthy weight, strengthen muscles and bones, and reduce the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. Walking has also been associated with promoting a better mood.
Walking has other less obvious benefits. Walking compensates for the effect of genes favoring overweight, reduces the risk of breast cancer and strengthens the immune system. It can also ease arthritis-related joint pain, and even a 15-minute walk can curb chocolate cravings, either generally or as a response to stress.
Given that lack of time is one of the main barriers to physical exercise in modern society, these results provide useful information to recommend walking, even two days a week, to reduce mortality risk.
Manage the lack of time for walking
The results of a new study should provide valuable information to clinicians and healthcare professionals. The bottom line is that for people who have difficulty exercising regularly, reaching the recommended daily steps just a few days a week can have significant health benefits. This study could help people who don’t have time to take 8,000 steps a day to overcome the feeling that it is useless to walk less.
There is now enough scientific evidence to show that this mindset is not true, and that even a few days of walking are beneficial. The study highlights the value of increasing the number of daily steps. It’s always a good reminder that any amount of walking, even one or two days a week, is always better than no walking.