Taking more steps daily may lead to a longer life

Taking more steps per day, either all at once or in shorter spurts, may help you live longer.

Research presented to an American Heart Association conference last week found that the number of steps a person over 60 took per day was linked to the likelihood of an early death.

The Australian Heart Foundation guidelines suggest that all adults aged 18-64 years should aim for 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week, with walking falling into that category.

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According to the Australian Heart Foundation, walking for an average of 30 minutes or more per day can lower the risk of heart disease and stroke by 35 per cent and type 2 diabetes by 40 per cent.

The American study went further, however, looking at the exact number of steps people were taking and narrowing the focus to those aged over 60.

Study author Dr Christopher Moore said popular fitness apps and step counters made it easier to count steps rather than investigating time spent walking.

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The researchers were able to use a wearable step counting device to compare the effects of uninterrupted bouts of steps (10 minutes or longer) to occasional short spurts, such as climbing the stairs and general activities throughout the day.

“Technological advances made in recent decades have allowed researchers to measure short spurts of activity,” Dr Moore explained. “Whereas, in the past we were limited to only measuring activities people could recall on a questionnaire.

“With the help of wearable devices, more research is indicating that any type of movement is better than remaining sedentary.”

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The study had 16,732 women over the age of 60 (with an average age of 72) wear a waist step counter that measured their daily steps and walking patterns for four to seven days between 2011 and 2015.

Then the study tracked the deaths from any cause for an average of six years, through to 31 December 2019. During the period of the study, 804 deaths were recorded.

Study participants who took more steps in short spurts lived longer, regardless of how many steps they had in longer, uninterrupted bouts. The benefits levelled off at about 4500 steps per day in short spurts.

Compared to no daily steps, each initial increase of 1000 steps per day was associated with a 28 per cent decrease in death during the follow-up period.

A 32 per cent decrease in death was noted in participants who took more than 2000 steps daily in uninterrupted bouts.

A prior analysis of the same women reported that those who took 4500 steps per day had a significantly lower risk of death compared to the least active women.

“Our current results indicate that this finding holds even for women who did not engage in any uninterrupted bouts of walking,” Dr Moore said. “Taking 2000 or more additional steps during bouts was associated with further benefits for longevity.

“Older adults face many barriers to participating in structured exercise programs, so some may find it more convenient and enjoyable to increase everyday walking behaviours, like parking slightly further from their destination or doing some extra housework.”

Dr Moore said that further research was needed to determine how relevant these results were for men and younger people.

The Australian Heart Foundation says that when it comes to walking, some is better than none and, if you are not physically active, you should start by doing 10 minutes of brisk walking and gradually build up to the recommended amount. 

How many steps do you do per day? Do you own a fitness tracker? Do you aim for a minimum number of steps each day to ensure you are staying fit and healthy?

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Written by Ben Hocking

Ben Hocking is a skilled writer and editor with interests and expertise in politics, government, Centrelink, finance, health, retirement income, superannuation, Wordle and sports.

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