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Sharp Health News

How 7,000 steps per day can save your life

June 21, 2022

A person walking their dog.
In 1965, a Japanese manufacturer of pedometers — a device that measures the number of steps taken and distance traveled — launched a marketing campaign urging people to walk 10,000 steps per day. From that point on, 10,000 daily steps became a universal goal for people hoping to improve and maintain their health.

Unfortunately, many people struggle to get that many steps each day. Research has found that most adults in the U.S. take just 5,100 steps daily. If an average person walks 3,000 to 4,000 steps per 30 minutes when walking at a moderate pace, it would take them over 1.5 hours to complete the 10,000-step goal. And for those who don’t have an extra 45 minutes or so to get those additional 4,900 steps, missing the 10,000-steps mark can be discouraging.

7,000 is the new 10,000
But is the need to take 10,000 steps per day backed by science? Not really, according to the findings of a 2021 study conducted by researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

While taking 10,000 steps is a healthy goal, the researchers determined that walking just 7,000 steps per day may be enough and can reduce the risk of premature death by 50% to 70% in people age 38 to 50. And walking more than 10,000 steps per day does not further reduce that risk.

The regular performance of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, such as brisk walking, can help improve sleep and cognition, and decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression. It can also help lower blood pressure; reduce the risk of excessive weight, cancer and chronic illness; and improve one’s quality of life. Plus, it’s free. All one needs is a pair of good walking shoes — no gym membership required.

How to get your steps in every day
Recognizing that many people live busy lives and may find it difficult to make time for walking or other physical activity, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers tips for getting in more steps each day:
  • Schedule specific times to walk each day and mark it in your calendar.
  • Walk — don’t drive or take public transportation — to routine destinations.
  • Walk around the gym or field while your child is at sports practice.
  • Walk your dog more than once a day and go a little farther than usual .
  • Find a convenient path near your home or work and enjoy quick, fresh-air walking breaks when you can.
  • Host a walking meeting. Walk and talk — in person or virtually — with your colleagues.
  • Instead of meeting for coffee or a drink, make a walking date with a friend or family member.
  • Take a walking lunch break during your workday.
  • If you want to avoid too much sun or bad weather, head to the local mall for a climate-controlled walk.
  • Stop circling parking lots looking for a close spot — park farther away and walk to your destination instead.
  • Even better — if it’s safe, walk around the entire parking lot before going inside your destination.
  • If you travel often, walk to airport concourses or gates instead of taking a shuttle or tram.
Walking is safe and effective for most people, according to the CDC. However, if you have been physically inactive or have a chronic illness, injury or disability, talk with your doctor about whether moderate or vigorous walking is right for you.

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