The health benefits increased with each step, the study found, but peaked at 10,000 steps — then the effects faded. Step counting can be especially important for people who engage in unstructured, unplanned physical activities, such as housework, gardening, and dog walking.
“In particular, we found a link between occasional steps (steps taken to regulate daily life) and a lower risk of both cancer and heart disease,” noted study co-author Borja del Pozo Cruz, an adjunct associate professor at the University. of Southern Denmark in Odense, Denmark, and senior researcher in health sciences at the University of Cadiz in Spain.
“Overall, I think the research is well done and it certainly continues to add to the knowledge that tells us exercise is good,” said Dr. Andrew Freeman, director of cardiovascular prevention and wellness at National Jewish Health in Denver. , Colorado. He was not involved in the investigation.
“Physical activity is just absolutely fantastic,” Freeman said. “And when you combine that with eating a more plant-based diet, de-stressing, getting enough sleep, and connecting with others — that’s your magic recipe. It’s the fountain of youth, if you will.”
Walking also helps with dementia
Del Pozo Cruz and his team recently published a similar study that found that walking 10,000 steps a day reduced the risk of dementia by 50%. According to the previous study, the risk decreased by 25% with just 3,800 steps per day.
However, walking at a brisk pace of 112 steps per minute for 30 minutes maximized risk reduction, resulting in a 62% reduction in dementia risk. The 30-minute brisk walk didn’t have to be done all at once either — it could be spread out throughout the day.
“Our view is that the intensity of steps matters — above the volume,” del Pozo Cruz said via email.
The new study, published Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, followed 78,500 people aged 40 to 79 from England, Scotland and Wales who wore pulse pedometers 24 hours a day for seven days.
After counting each person’s total steps per day, researchers placed them into two categories: less than 40 steps per minute — which is more of a amble, like walking from room to room — and more than 40 steps per minute. , or so-called “purposeful” walking.
A third category was created for top achievers — those who took the most steps per minute within 30 minutes over the course of a day (although, again, those 30 minutes didn’t have to be done in a row).
About seven years later, researchers compared that data with medical records and found that people who took the most steps per minute — in this case, about 80 steps per minute — showed the greatest reduction in risk of cancer, heart disease and early death from any cause. .
Researchers found that the association between peak 30-minute steps and risk reduction depended on the disease studied.
“We saw a 62% decrease for dementia: this figure was almost 80% for death and incidence of cardiovascular disease and much less (about 20%) for cancer,” del Pozo Cruz said via email.
“This may be related to specific pathways through which physical activity is beneficial,” he said. “It pushes the body in general: can generate more muscle, a bigger heart, and better fitness, all known protective factors for cardiovascular disease and cancer, as well as other health problems.”
Get out of breath
What is the takeaway? You don’t have to fixate on the number of steps (unless you really want to), Freeman said.
“Does every step count? Absolutely. And we know that brisk walking every day brings additional benefits in terms of blood pressure reduction and cardiovascular exercise, and so on,” said Freeman, the founder of the American College of Cardiology’s Nutrition & Lifestyle Working Group.
“But the truth is, the same goal has always applied: challenge yourself at whatever fitness level you are. Check with your doctor first, of course, but your goal is to get out of breath for 30 minutes every day.”
What is shortness of breath as it applies to exercise? It’s not panting and panting so hard you can barely breathe. Instead, shortness of breath is when you walk with someone, they talk to you, and you have a little trouble talking back, Freeman said.
“Get out of breath for 30 minutes at whatever pace you are, and continue to challenge yourself to be slightly dissatisfied at your current level so you can get better and better,” Freeman said.
Being more physically active often encourages other healthy habits, such as an improved diet, and discourages unhealthy habits, such as smoking, he added.