How many steps per day really bring health benefits?

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The more a person walks, the lower their risk of dying early from various diseases. This has been confirmed by an analysis of 17 studies from all over the world with a total of almost 227,00 participants. However, the number of daily steps required to achieve health benefits is lower than previously assumed. The researchers write in their meta-analysis that just 4,000 steps are enough to reduce deaths from any cause significantly.

The study, published on Wednesday in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, found that walking at least 3,967 steps daily reduces the risk of dying earlier from any disease. Taking 2,337 steps per day already reduces the risk of dying from diseases of the heart and blood vessels (cardiovascular diseases).

However, the risk of dying from any disease or cardiovascular disease decreases significantly with every 500 to 1,000 additional steps a person takes. An extra 1,000 steps per day means a 15 percent reduction in the risk of dying earlier for any reason.

An increase of 500 steps per day was associated with a seven percent reduction in the mortality rate from cardiovascular disease.

20,000 steps
The researchers, led by Maciej Banach, Professor of Cardiology at the Medical University of Lodz in Poland and Associate Professor at the Centre for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, found that even taking 20,000 steps a day increased the health benefits further. So far, there is no upper limit, but only limited data is available on the number of steps up to 20,000 per day.

‘Our study confirms: The more you walk, the better,’ Banach said. ‘We found that this applies to both men and women, regardless of age and whether they live in a world’s temperate, subtropical or subpolar region or in a region with a mixture of different climate zones.’

One in four people does too little exercise
There is strong evidence that a sedentary lifestyle can contribute to an increase in cardiovascular disease and a shorter lifespan. Studies have shown that over a quarter of the world’s population is insufficiently physically active. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), insufficient physical activity is the fourth leading cause of death worldwide, with 3.2 million related deaths per year. According to the latest study, the coronavirus pandemic has led to a decline in physical activity, and levels have not yet recovered.

‘In a world where we have increasingly advanced drugs to combat certain diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, we should always emphasize that lifestyle changes – including diet and exercise, which was a major theme of our analysis – could be at least as effective or even more effective in reducing cardiovascular risk and prolonging life,’ emphasized study leader Banach. According to the scientists, this was the largest analysis on this topic.

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