Higher daily step counts were found to be associated with lower risk of all-cause mortality, according to a new study published in JAMA.
Researchers from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the National Institute on Aging, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), also found that the number of daily steps, not intensity of stepping, had a strong association with mortality.
“While we knew physical activity is good for you, we didn’t know how many steps per day you need to take to lower your mortality risk or whether stepping at a higher intensity makes a difference,” said first author Pedro Saint-Maurice, PhD, NCI Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, in a CDC press release. “We wanted to investigate this question to provide new insights that could help people better understand the health implications of the step counts they get from fitness trackers and phone apps.”
Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, researchers tracked approximately 4800 US adults aged ≥40 years who wore accelerometers for up to 7 days between 2003 and 2006.
Participants were followed for mortality until 2015 via the National Death Index. Associations between death, step number, and intensity were calculated after researchers adjusted for demographic and behavioral risk factors, body mass index, and health status at the start of the study.
More Reason for Patients to Exercise During Coronavirus Outbreak
Results showed that taking 8000 steps/day was associated with a 51% lower risk for all-cause mortality vs walking 4000 steps/day. Taking 12000 steps/day was associated with a 65% reduced risk vs 4000 daily steps.
In analyses of subgroups, higher step counts were associated with lower all-cause mortality rates among men and women; among younger and older adults; and among white, black, and Mexican-American adults. Secondary outcomes showed higher daily step counts were associated with lower rates of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.
To the researchers’ surprise, there was no association seen between step intensity and mortality risk after accounting for the total number of daily steps. They noted that future studies are warranted to further examine this relationship.
Even though researchers controlled for factors that could have affected the results, the study was observational and, therefore, cannot prove causality.
The results do provide more evidence that patients should continue to keep active, especially during the current coronavirus pandemic that has forced a large portion of the population to stay indoors for the foreseeable future.