Health Break - If You Want to Live Longer, 4400 Steps a Day May Be All You Need

Many health gurus, websites and people in general have been trained to believe that you need to take 10,000 steps a day to achieve certain health goals.  Interestingly, a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine suggests that 4400 steps a day may be all you need to improve your longevity.  Do not get too excited.   While the research suggests this correlation between number of steps and longevity, there are many factors to consider before we say definitively that this is the case.


The researchers looked at women of an average age of 72 years old who wore accelerometers during periods of activity.  Factors such as step volume, and step intensity were measured.  What they discovered was that women who walked around 4400 had lower rates of death compared to those who took only 2700 steps per day.  In addition, the more steps that were taken, the greater the benefit (but only up to a certain point).  The benefit seemed to max out at around 7500 steps a day and the speed that the women walked did not seem to matter.


While this study demonstrates some exciting information, there may be reasons for the observed “benefit” beyond the simple number of steps taken.  Things such as poor health and poor diet could have led certain women to take fewer steps, thus distorting the results in favor of increased steps.  The researchers did their best to take into account factors such as lifestyle, age, diet and health status which could skew the results.  They also re-evaluated the data and after removing the numbers for women who may have been in poor health their results demonstrated the same findings.  


The researchers are continuing to follow the women who participated in the study and hope to have additional information in the future.  They stress that even a modest increase in steps per day can have health benefits and that all steps count, not just steps taken during purposeful exercise.  In addition, more steps are not necessarily a waste.  They stress that more research is needed and that there may be additional benefits from increased steps that the study did not measure.  All in all, what we do know is that it is important to get up and move, even if it is not to exercise.  Just taking a walk, for whatever reason can result in health benefit.  So get up and get moving.  Do what you can, when you can and always discuss your plans and activities with your health care provider.

Dr. David Roy Lead Pine Belt Dermatology Physician

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