One of the more interesting findings of recent years, emerging from the use of accelerometers in epidemiological studies, is that even quite modest levels of physical activity have a meaningful impact on mortality in later life. There is a big difference between being inactive and being somewhat active. One of the ways of visualizing this part of the dose-response curve for exercise is to look at the relationship between steps taken per day and mortality.
A meta-analysis of 15 studies involving nearly 50,000 people from four continents offers new insights into identifying the amount of daily walking steps that will optimally improve adults' health and longevity - and whether the number of steps is different for people of different ages. Taking more steps a day helps lower the risk of premature death.
More specifically, for adults 60 and older, the risk of premature death leveled off at about 6,000-8,000 steps per day, meaning that more steps than that provided no additional benefit for longevity. Adults younger than 60 saw the risk of premature death stabilize at about 8,000-10,000 steps per day. "So, what we saw was this incremental reduction in risk as steps increase, until it levels off. And the leveling occurred at different step values for older versus younger adults."
Interestingly, the research found no definitive association with walking speed, beyond the total number of steps per day. Getting in your steps - regardless of the pace at which you walked them - was the link to a lower risk of death. The new research supports and expands findings from another study, which found that walking at least 7,000 steps a day reduced middle-aged people's risk of premature death.