- Regular walking, aiming for about 8000 to 9000 steps daily, can significantly reduce the chances of developing health conditions such as obesity, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, acid reflux, and depression.
- While there’s no agreed-upon “magic number” of steps to aim for, being as active as possible is the primary goal and increased step counts generally lead to better health outcomes.
- Stepping speed may be just as significant as the step count, as it can enhance cardiovascular fitness, which is a key factor in protecting against numerous diseases.
- An observed “plateau” effect was noted in cases of type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, where risks showed a decline when individuals reach around 9000 steps a day but no additional benefits were observed beyond this threshold.
- The importance of a holistic lifestyle, combining exercise with a diet rich in plant-based foods, adequate sleep and social connection, is emphasized for maintaining overall physical and mental health.
Recent studies involving over 6000 adults, primarily older and of middle age, discovered that participants who managed to achieve a step count of approximately 8000 to 9000 steps daily, significantly lowered their chances of developing a multitude of health conditions within a 7-year period. Pivotal amongst the list are ailments such as obesity, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, acid reflux, and clinical depression.
The Magic Number: Is There One?
Walking about four miles, at a steady pace, will typically amount to the aforementioned number of steps. However, not all experts affirm that there’s a specific “magic number” to this premise, advocating instead that the resounding goal should be to be as active as possible, regardless of the step count. The adage, “the more the merrier,” applies perfectly to the step counts, particularly when the aim is to prevent obesity and other interconnected health issues.
Understanding the Dynamic: More Activity equals Fewer Calories
Dr. Chip Lavie, the medical director of cardiac rehabilitation and prevention at the John Ochsner Heart and Vascular Institute in New Orleans, proposes a simple theory: the more you walk or run, the more calories you burn. “Approximately 100 calories get burned per mile walked or run,” he stated. Of course, with increased levels of activity, individuals may consume more food. However, the total impact of being highly active usually results in weight loss. Consequently, this leads to reduced risks of heart disease, diabetes, and a variety of other ailments.
Step Speed: A Significant Factor
Dr. Lavie also emphasizes that stepping speed may be just as significant as the step count. This factor is key to enhancing cardiovascular fitness. “Fitness is one of the greatest protectors against numerous diseases,” he expressed. His work is coherent with the main message of the study: increase your levels of activity, and you can potentially reduce your risk for a variety of chronic health conditions.
About the Study
The study, originally published on Oct. 11 in Nature Medicine, analysed data from just above 6,000 middle-aged adults, aged from 41 to 67, who used smartwatch devices to record their daily step count. These participants’ health records were reviewed by researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, who then discovered correlations between their step counts and their risk of developing chronic illnesses.
The research indicates that those who averaged at least 8200 steps daily decreased their chance of developing obesity. Furthermore, they successfully reduced their risks of sleep apnea, acid reflux disease, and potential diagnoses of major depression. However, taking even more steps proved to be better yet.
The individuals who fell into the top quartile, generally achieving nearly 11,000 steps daily, had a 30% to 50% lesser chance of developing these conditions, compared to those falling in the bottom quartile who averaged around only 6000 steps.
For instance, if an overweight individual boosted their daily step count from 6000 to 11,000, their odds of obesity could potentially be cut by 64%.
The Plateau Effect
However, an observed “plateau” effect was noted in cases of type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. The risks showed a decline when individuals reach between 8,000 to 9,000 steps a day but no additional benefits were observed beyond the threshold. However, specialists like Dr. Lavie caution against drawing hasty conclusions from these findings.
A Holistic Approach: More Than Just Exercise
While the study mainly emphasised the link between physical activity and a reduction in chronic health conditions, other experts like Dr. Andrew Freeman, the director of cardiovascular prevention and wellness at National Jewish Health in Denver, emphasised the role of a more holistic lifestyle. Primarily, coupling exercise with a diet rich in plant-based foods, adequate sleep and social connection are all crucial for maintaining physical and mental health.
Ultimately, the message of “keeping active” rings true for all experts. Regardless of specifics like pedometer readings or fitness tracking devices, consistency in maintained activity levels coupled with the principle of a health-conscious lifestyle can go a long way in ensuring better health outcomes for everyone.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides guidelines on exercise.