Higher Step Counts Cut Mortality Risk

With new seasons of television dropping daily on Netflix, it’s easy to become a couch potato during this continuing period of physical isolation.  The well-stocked fridge is far too close to the family room to make a dent in your daily steps goal.  But adults over the age of 40 may have good reason to get moving; a recent study has found that higher step counts are linked with a lower mortality risk from all causes.  

Gyms and studios might be on pause right now but walking outdoors, at a safe 6-foot distance from others, is not cancelled.  If you have a treadmill or elliptical trainer, dust that baby off and get your playlist ready and your activity tracker charged.  According to a recent report from the National Institute on Aging, researchers found that adults who took 8,000 steps per day had a 51 percent lower risk for death from all causes compared with adults that took only 4,000 steps per day.  And taking 12,000 steps per day was associated with a 65 percent lower risk compared with taking 4,000 steps.  

Authors of the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, did not find any link between the intensity of steps and the risk of death. The study tracked 4,800 American adults over the age of 40 between 2003 and 2006 following up in 2015 for mortality using the National Death Index. 

Higher step counts reduced the death rate for both men and women, young and older adults and among white, black and Mexican-American adults.  Being more physically active can also lower the risk for obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.  Moving more each day can help improve sleep at night and boost mood.  

As we take care of our physical and mental health throughout the month of April while practicing self-isolation to curb the spread of COVID-19, paying attention to step counts and getting outdoors for exercise can be a welcome distraction that can help improve overall well-being.  If the generally-recommended 10,000 steps per day seems daunting, try to aim for 4,400 steps and gradually increase over time. 

For more tips on starting a walking program follow this link to the Mayo Clinic Healthy Lifestyle page and get started on the road to better health.