Study reveals exactly how many steps you need to walk a day, and it's not 10,000

A study has revealed how many steps you should do to live longer. (Getty Images)
A study has revealed how many steps you should do to live longer. (Getty Images)

Sure, the whole 10,000 steps a day mantra has been drilled into us, but sometimes it’s simply not feasible – especially as we come into the winter months when we’re less likely to venture outdoors in the cold for a walk.

In fact, walking 10,000 steps a day first began as a marketing campaign for the pedometer ahead of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and the idea has stuck ever since.

Luckily, a new study has revealed that you don’t actually have to hit the coveted 10,000 steps per day benchmark in order to see great health benefits.

The study, from the University of Granada, has found just 8,000 steps per day can ward off premature death, and anything above 7,000 steps per day will help you see health benefits.

"Traditionally, many people thought that you had to reach about 10,000 steps a day to obtain health benefits - an idea that came out of Japan in the 1960s but had no basis in science," study author, Professor Francisco B. Ortega said in a statement.

"We've shown for the first time that the more steps you take, the better, and that there is no excessive number of steps that have been proven to be harmful to health."

older couple walking
7,000 steps a day is optimal for health benefits, a study has found. (Getty Images)

To find these results, the researchers reviewed literature and analysed data from 12 international studies involving more than 110,000 patients.

"In this study, we show that measurable benefits can be obtained with small increases in the number of steps per day, and that for people with low levels of physical activity, every additional 500 steps improves their health," the research noted.

"This is good news because not everyone can walk almost 9,000 steps a day, at least not at first, so you can set small, reachable goals and gradually make progress and increase the number of steps per day."

Along with the number of steps you walk, the speed at which you walk was also found to lower your risk of mortality, and faster walkers had less chance of dying prematurely.

The findings are similar to a study from earlier this year that said walking just 4,000 steps per day could reduce your risk of dying from all causes.

The research team behind this study, conducted by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Medical University of Lodz in Poland, found that adding 1,000 steps per day to your regular daily count could reduce your risk of dying prematurely by 15%.

Even just adding an extra 500 steps a day could decrease your chance of dying from cardiovascular disease by 7%. Researchers add that the health benefits continued to multiply with more steps taken.

friends walking in woods
Walking speed is more important than how many steps you do. (Getty Images)

Current guidelines from the NHS recommends doing 150 minutes of exercise per week, and says that even a brisk 10-minute walk can offer many health benefits.

In 2018, the government released a statement from Public Health England and the Royal College of GPs that said that the public should focus on the speed of their walking, rather than the total number of steps taken.

"The additional health benefits that can be achieved by walking at a brisk pace for periods of 10 minutes or more – as opposed to totting up a certain number of steps throughout the day – are undeniable," Professor Sir Muir Gray said at the time.

"I’d advise anyone of any age and activity level to start to fit in at least one 10 minute brisk walk a day as a simple way to get more active, especially those who may be taking medication for a long term health condition – you will receive even more benefits from walking briskly for 10 minutes or more a day."

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