Walking 10,000 steps a day could protect you from an early death

New research says taking 10,000 steps a day could prolong your life. We tell you how to easily build them into your daily routine.

A new study has concluded that walking 10,000 steps each day drastically cuts your risk of an early death — even if you spend the rest of the day sitting down. The study, involving 72,174 Brits, with an average age of 61, found that walking the equivalent of five miles a day can cut the risk of an early death by 39% and of a heart attack by more than a fifth.

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 – 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

The key findings of the new study

How taking more daily steps makes a difference

The study, led by the University of Sydney, concluded that anything above 2,200 steps per day proved beneficial, but the lowest risk of early death was among people who took 9,000 to 10,500 steps a day.

The findings held true regardless of how much time a person spent sitting each day.

When it came to avoiding heart attacks and strokes the optimum number of steps for those sitting for long periods was around 9,700 – but just 4,000- 4,500 steps each day can achieve 50 per cent of the protective benefits to health.

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Other research also found 10,000 steps makes a difference

More studies say the same

The new study follows research released last year that found if you are over 60, walking at least 6,000 steps a day can cut your risk of death by 42%.

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: “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 origin of 10,000 steps

Where did 10,000 daily steps originate?

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?

However this latest research shows that whoever chose this number, may have struck lucky as research keeps showing the benefits of a daily 10,000 steps.

Ways to build 10,000 steps into your daily routine

How to take 10,000 steps a day

For an average person, 10,000 steps is about five miles or 8km – which sounds like a long way to many of us.

But if you break them down over a whole day, it is possible to incorporate them into your routine without having to make too many changes to your life.

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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.

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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?

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.”

Person's legs and lawnmowerCredit: Shutterstock/Shaplov Evgeny

“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 6 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 you in good health? 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.”

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Phillipa Cherryson

Written by Phillipa Cherryson she/her

Updated:

Phillipa Cherryson is a senior digital editor for Saga Exceptional. Phillipa has been a journalist for 30 years, writing for local and national newspapers, UK magazines and reporting onscreen for ITV. In her spare time she loves the outdoors and is a trainee mountain leader and Ordnance Survey Champion.

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