We all know by now that 10,000 steps-a-day the universal step goal, right? It’s the number your step tracker is most likely set to default. It’s the number we hear thrown about whenever we’re talking about daily step metrics and health goals. But there has always been some controversy about where 10,000 came from, and why it became the gold standard. Does science support this, or is 10,000 just a nice, round number to shoot for?
A new study published earlier this month in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) shed some new light on the subject by looking at a cohort group of 2110 black and white women and men, and the association between daily steps and premature death. Participants were part of the long-term Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study.
The researchers divided the participants into three groups: a low-step group (<7000 steps per day), a moderate-step group (7000-9999 steps/d), and a high-step group (10,000 steps/d). The results indicated that adults in the moderate or high-step groups (those taking at least 7000 steps-a-day), had approximately 50% to 70% lower risk of mortality than the adults in the low-step group. This was true for both the black and white populations, and for both men and women. Those in the high-step group however, did not show any additional reduction in mortality rates over those in the moderate group. There was also no association found between step intensity and mortality.
These findings support previous research, including the NHANES study, which found that adults taking between 8000 and 12000 steps-per-day had approximately a 50%-65% reduction of mortality risk compared to those who took 4000 steps per day.
So, if you’re hitting 10,000 steps-a-day, should you back off? Well, no, not necessarily—especially if you are reaping other health benefits from your daily step habit such as better moods, higher fitness levels, or prolonged weight-loss or weight reduction. But for those who are not hitting 10,000 steps a day, and who may think 10,000 is an unrealistic goal, 7000 might be a number to strive for. By hitting 7000 steps-a-day, you could literally be adding years to your life—and hopefully some high quality years at that!
So, in conclusion, if you’re hitting 10, or if you’re hitting 7, rock on! Keep up the good work! But if you’re below 7, set your health tracker accordingly, and see if you can make 7000 steps-a-day your new attainable goal!
And of course, for maximum cardiovascular health benefits and risk reduction, don’t forget about the AHA guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate activity per week!