In recent decades, several studies have identified risk factors for early death such as reduced cardio-respiratory fitness (CRF), obesity, smoking, diabetes, heart disease, pulmonary disease, etc. Of all the causes listed, poor CRF appears to be the leading risk factor for early death. If CRF is so important, can walking help? If so, how many steps do we really need to live longer and better?
For years, experts have suggested walking 10,000 steps per day to live a long and healthy life, but there isn’t much research to support this claim. A 2019 study looked at how many steps a group of 18,289 elderly females took over a seven-day period and compared that data with their health outcomes four years later. The researchers associated a reduced mortality risk with more steps taken per day, up until about 7,500 steps per day. Compared with participants taking 2,700 steps per day, those averaging 8,400 steps per day were 58% less likely to die during the course of the study.
In a similar study involving 4,840 middle-aged adults, researchers compared daily step count data collected during 2003-2006 with health outcomes a decade later and identified an association between steps taken per day and a reduced risk for early death.
Neither study concluded that a fast or slow walking speed played a role in overall mortality risk. However, several studies have linked a faster walking speed with better cognitive health and a reduced risk for disability. A thirteen-year study that compared members of a running club with those who didn’t run found that those who regularly jogged were less likely to experience physical impairments or a premature death.
These studies suggest that getting up and moving your body can improve your cardio-respiratory fitness and reduce the risk of early death. Additionally, staying active may be associated with a better quality of life. Other ways to prolong life include avoiding excessive alcohol consumption, not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, preserving/building muscle mass, and eating a healthy diet. If you develop musculoskeletal pain that interferes with daily function, seek treatment from your doctor of chiropractic as soon as possible so that you can resume your normal activities pain-free.