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Walking 10,000 steps daily confirmed to reduce health risks of inactivity, say Australian scientists

26 Jun 2024
A new study by the University of Sydney is one of the first to objectively measure whether daily steps can offset the health risks of sedentary behaviour.

The results, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine*, discovered that 10,000 steps a day can reduce the risk of premature death and cardiovascular disease the most, even if people are inactive the rest of the time. What’s more, just a small number of steps can still make a difference.

The findings play into the growing popularity of walking-based programmes offered by health club operators and resort and destination spas worldwide.

Data tracking
The research was based on 72,174 individuals (average age 61 and 58 per cent female) who wore an accelerometer device for seven days. The daily step count and time spent sedentary was calculated and the health trajectory of the participants was followed up via hospitalisation data and death records.

Participants who were inactive for less than 10.5 hours a day were classified as having low sedentary time and those who were inactive for more than 10.5 hours a day or more were considered to have high sedentary time.

All movement matters
Based on the findings, the authors calculated that 9,000 to 10,000 steps per day was the optimal number to counteract high sedentary time. This lowered premature mortality risk by 39 per cent and cardiovascular disease risk by 21 per cent.

In both cases, 50 per cent of the benefit was achieved at between 4,000 and 4,500 steps a day. And researchers suggested that any amount of daily steps above 2,200 is associated with lower health risks regardless of the time spent being sedentary.

Lead author and research fellow, Dr Matthew Ahmadi, says: “This is by no means a get out of jail card for people who are sedentary for excessive periods of time, however, it does hold an important public health message that all movement matters.”

Senior author, professor Emmanuel Stamatakis, adds: “We hope this evidence will inform the first generation of device-based physical activity and sedentary behaviour guidelines, which should include key recommendations on daily stepping.”

*Ahmadi M, et al. Do the associations of daily steps with mortality and incident CV disease differ by sedentary time levels? British Journal of Sports Medicine. March 2024.

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