Keep walking: Study finds higher daily step count helps adults live longer

Three people walking in a park.

If you want to live longer, you might consider walking more. That’s because a new study showed that a higher daily step count—about 7,000 steps per day--lowered the risk of death in a large group of middle-aged men and women by as much as 70% compared to those who took fewer steps.  

Researchers have known for some time that walking is a healthy form of exercise that can help reduce blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and weight. It can also improve sleep. Many smart watches and smart phones have tools that keep track of our step count. But the exact number of steps that a person needs to maintain optimal health is unclear and understudied. While some sources promote 10,000 steps per day as a healthy goal, evidence is growing that a lower number may also be beneficial.  

In the new study, researchers followed over 2,000 middle-aged adults, including a high percentage of blacks and women, for a period of over 11 years using an accelerometer to measure daily steps. The participants were part of the NHLBI’s Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study, a long-term study of cardiovascular disease beginning in young adulthood. Those who took at least 7,000 steps daily had a 50% to 70% lower risk of dying during the study period compared to those who took fewer steps, they say.  Step intensity did not affect the risk of dying.   

The study, funded in part by the NHLBI, appeared in JAMA Network Open