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One to two days of 8,000 or more daily steps provides similar mortality benefits to 3 – 7 days

Walking 8,000 or more daily steps for just one to two days per week provides the same mortality benefit as that achieved by 3 – 7 days

US researchers have discovered that the reduction in the risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality from achieving 8,000 daily steps on only one to two days a week is broadly similar to that from undertaking the same number of steps for between 3 and 7 days per week.

It has become increasing recognised that a greater number of daily steps is significantly associated with a lower all-cause mortality. However, the mortality benefits appear to plateau for adults older than 60 years at approximately 6000–8000 steps/day and between 8000 – 10 000 steps/day for those under 60 years. Nevertheless, with a lack of time identified as a barrier to undertaking more physical activity by nearly two-thirds of respondents in a recent survey, whether the same mortality benefits could be achieved through undertaking 8,000 daily steps but on less days remains uncertain.

In the current study, researchers set out to evaluate the dose-response association between the number of days an individual takes 8,000 or more daily steps and mortality among US adults. The study included a representative sample of US participants aged 20 years or older, who wore an accelerometer for 1 week. These individuals were then categorised into three groups, based on the number of days that they undertook 8,000 or more daily steps: 0 days, 1 – 2 days and 3 – 7 days. The main outcome of interest was all-cause and cardiovascular mortality over a 10-year follow-up period and the results adjusted for potential confounders such as age, sex, race and ethnicity, insurance status, marital status, smoking, comorbidities and average daily step counts.

One to two days of 8,000 daily steps and all-cause mortality

A total of 3,101 participants with a mean age of 50.5 years (51% female) were included in the analysis. Overall, 20.4% did not take 8,000 steps or more any days of the week, 17.2% took 8000 steps or more 1 to 2 days per week and 62.5% undertook 8000 steps or more 3 to 7 days per week. 

Over the 10-year period of follow-up, compared to those who did not walk 8,000 daily steps on any day per week, the all-cause mortality risk was lower among those who took 8000 or more daily steps on one to two days per week (adjusted risk difference, aRD = -14.9%, 95% CI -18.8% to -10.9%). However, among those walking 8,000 or more daily steps for between 3 and 7 days per week, the risk difference was similar (aRD = -16.5%, 95% CI, -20.4% to -12.5%). There were also similar reductions in cardiovascular mortality between the one to two day and three to seven day groups.

The authors concluded that individuals may receive substantial health benefits by walking just a couple days a week.

Inoue K et al. Association of Daily Step Patterns With Mortality in US Adults. JAMA Netw Open 2023

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