Just 6,000 steps a day could slash your chance of an early death

We tell you how many steps you need to walk every day – and how to build them into your daily routine.

If you are over 60, walking at least 6,000 steps a day can cut your risk of death by 42%, new research has revealed.

If you are a keen walker, that number may be easily achievable, but for the rest of us it sounds like a lot of steps to fit into each day.

But it’s easy to incorporate into your daily routine even if you’re new to walking – walking around the supermarket, mowing the lawn or even popping to your local shop. We tell you how to boost your daily step count and perhaps even extend your life.

Three women walking outdoorsCredit: Shutterstock/SeventyFour

What does the new study say?

Researchers looked at 17 studies involving more than 226,000 people from six countries, including the UK. They found that the more steps people took, the lower their risk of dying prematurely.

The study found that for younger people, as few as 4,000 steps a day are needed to reduce deaths, but for the over-60s the sharpest improvement was seen in those taking between 6,000 and 10,000 steps.


Diet and exercise could be better than medication

Leading the study was Professor Maciej Banach, professor of cardiology at the Medical University of Lodz, in Poland. He told The Guardian: “Our study confirms that the more you walk, the better.

“In a world where we have more and more advanced drugs to target specific conditions such as cardiovascular disease, I believe we should always emphasise that lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise, might be at least as – or even more – effective in reducing cardiovascular risk and prolonging lives.”

The team also looked at the results of walking up to 20,000 steps a day (about 9-10 miles for most people) and found the health benefits kept on increasing, although cautioned that more studies are needed on this.

Should I be taking 10,000 steps a day?

The benefits of walking 10,000 steps have long been touted, with this figure held as the magic number of steps we should all be striving for. But did you know it was actually dreamed up for a marketing campaign for a new pedometer, at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964?

Current research and previous studies have shown that any amount over 6,000 steps a day makes a big difference to your body and your brain health.

How to take 6,000 steps a day

The new study says the biggest health improvements for people over 60 are when we take more than 6,000 steps a day. For an average person, 6,000 steps is about 4km (2½ miles) – it’s not as far as 10,000 steps, but it still sounds like a lot to many of us.

How to start counting your steps

First of all, you’ll need something to count your steps. Most smartphones have step-counting functionality, or you might want to invest in a fitness tracker. Read our guide to the best budget fitness trackers to find the right one for you.

Why not use upping your daily step count as an opportunity to get out walking? It’s one of the best all-round forms of exercise that will benefit your body, memory and your mental health.

Person's legs and lawnmowerCredit: Shutterstock/Shaplov Evgeny

Squeeze in more steps every day

But what if you don’t think you’ve got the time to fit thousands of steps into your daily routine?

Saga Exceptional fitness technology writer Steven Shaw has been testing fitness trackers for us and has been learning how to notch up his steps without noticing.

He says: “I quite often do a three-mile (5km) route when I’m testing fitness trackers, which is about 6000 – 7000 steps for me.

“But I won’t always do the steps in one go. I’ve worked out that a walk to my nearest shop is about 800 – 1,000 steps, a walk from the lounge to the kitchen to get a drink is about 20 steps.

Notch up your step count without noticing

“Even mowing the lawn, doing the weekly supermarket shop or popping to your local store can add hundreds or even thousands of steps to your daily total. Every home is different, but once you get up and moving it’s surprising how quickly those steps can add up.”

Shaw recommends the Fitbit Charge 5 as the best overall fitness tracker, that is easy to use for a beginner. For those on a budget, the Honor Band 7 is less than £50.

Is walking alone enough for good health?

Walking is a great form of exercise but is it enough to keep in good health?

Saga Exceptional’s fitness writer and personal trainer Becky Fuller says we need to do more than just count our steps every day.

“Walking is a great form of cardio exercise and offers many health benefits,” she says.

“But it’s important to include some kind of strength or resistance training in your exercise regime. The NHS recommends a minimum of two sessions per week.

Strength training helps protect against sarcopenia – loss of muscles mass and strength – and also keeps the bones and joints strong, preventing osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. In turn, this makes daily activities such as walking much easier as we maintain our strength and flexibility.”

Phillipa Cherryson

Written by Phillipa Cherryson she/her


Phillipa Cherryson is Saga Exceptional’s Fitness Channel Editor. Phillipa has been a journalist for 30 years, writing for local and national newspapers, UK magazines and reporting onscreen for ITV.

Her passion is outdoor fitness. She’s a trainee mountain leader; an Ordnance Survey Champion; she organises walks and instructional events for South Wales members of online community the Adventure Queens and she’s vice chair of the Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Local Access Forum.

She hated sports at school and only started getting the fitness bug as she reached her 50s. Now she loves mountain walking, trail runs, e-biking, paddleboarding and climbing. She also loves cake.

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