The number of steps per day, not speed, is linked to mortality rate

An observational study found a benefit as steps added up for women and men

man walking

A study links more steps per day with a lower mortality risk from any cause. The association held true for women and men and across the representative sample of black, Mexican American and white individuals in the study, researchers report.

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However you can fit some steps in your day, keep it up — and the more, the better.

A new study of nearly 5,000 people finds an association between the total number of steps per day and the risk of dying for any reason. Among the 655 participants who took fewer than 4,000 steps per day, the mortality rate was 76.7 per 1,000 people per year. (In distance, 4,000 steps is roughly 3 kilometers.) But among the 1,727 people who managed 4,000–7,999 steps per day, the death rate plummeted to 21.4 per 1,000 people.

It got even better for the next group: Among the 1,539 people taking 8,000 to just under 12,000 daily steps, the annual death rate was 6.9 per 1,000 people, researchers report online March 24 in JAMA.

Study participants, who were at least 40 years old, wore accelerometers that tracked their steps for up to a week. Researchers collected the data from 2003 to 2006 as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, and then followed the participants an average of 10 years, during which time 1,165 of them died.

While there was a link between the number of steps per day and the risk of dying, the researchers did not find that the intensity of the steps — the number of steps per minute — was associated with mortality risk in the study.

Aimee Cunningham is the biomedical writer. She has a master’s degree in science journalism from New York University.

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