How Many Daily Steps to Lengthen Your Life? Fewer Than You Might Think

If you’re one of the millions of folks bent on racking up at least 10,000 steps a day, read on.

A new study finds that heart health starts to improve with as few as 2,300 steps a day. The research also indicates your risk of dying from any disease starts to decrease with only about 4,000 daily steps.

However, the more daily steps you get, the bigger the benefit becomes, the study also found.

“Ten thousand steps per day is, in fact, still a correct way of thinking if we take into account the most pronounced [death] reduction,” said study author Dr. Maciej Banach. He is a professor of cardiology at the Medical University of Lodz in Poland, and an adjunct professor at the Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Ten thousand steps equates to about 4-5 miles of walking, experts say.

For the study, researchers analyzed 17 prior studies involving about 227,000 people. They were followed for roughly seven years.

Adults over age 60 saw risk of death reduced by 42% if they clocked between 6,000 and 10,000 steps a day. Among younger adults, there was a 49% reduction when they walked between 7,000 and 13,000 steps a day, the study showed.

“Every increase of steps by 1,000 steps/day is associated with a 15% reduction in the risk of dying from any cause, and every increase by 500 steps per day is associated with a 7% reduction in dying from cardiovascular disease,” Banach said.

And there is no such thing as too many steps. The researchers have not found an upper step limit yet.

The study wasn’t designed to say how, or if, walking lowers the risk of dying, just that there is an association. Research has shown that leading a sedentary lifestyle can shave years off of your life. According to World Health Organization data, 3.2 million deaths a year are related to physical inactivity.

Amanda Paluch is an assistant professor of kinesiology at the Institute for Applied Life Sciences at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

“This study is consistent and reiterates what we have previously seen,” said Paluch, who was not involved in the study.

The bottom line? “Move more and sit less,” she advised.

The health benefits of walking begin at levels much lower than 10,000 steps a day, Paluch said. “It is not an all-or-nothing situation.”

Don’t feel overwhelmed if you don’t get 10,000 steps, she added. “Start where you are. There is benefit to making small, incremental increases in steps per day,” Paluch said.

If you are starting at 3,000, work your way up to 4,000, then 5,000, she recommended. “These gradual improvements can be meaningful for your health, and for those people already at higher levels of steps per day, keep it up.”

The findings appear in the Aug. 9 issue of the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

More information

Learn more about the health benefits of walking at the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

SOURCES: Maciej Banach, MD, PhD, professor, cardiology, Medical University of Lodz, Poland, and adjunct professor, Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore; Amanda Paluch, PhD, assistant professor, Department of Kinesiology, Institute for Applied Life Sciences, University of Massachusetts-Amherst; European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, Aug. 9, 2023