A recent study suggests that walking correlates with amplified health advantages yet doing little appears to be enough to reap its benefits.
In an era where sedentary habits are often imposed by technology, walking remains an easily accessible and uncomplicated form of exercise.
The correlation between step count and the decrease in mortality risk has been widely discussed. The latest study, recognized as the most extensive global research on this subject, unveils promising new findings.
The analysis involved the compilation of results from 17 distinct studies conducted worldwide, encompassing data from 226,889 individuals. The outcomes were published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
The discoveries made by the researchers challenge the prevailing belief concerning the ideal daily step count. It appears that the ideal number is neither 10,000 nor 5,000 steps.
Instead, it was found that simply walking 3,967 steps per day reduces the risk of mortality from any cause. Moreover, a mere 2,337 daily steps were associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular diseases. However, it’s not solely about meeting the minimum requirement.
“Our study affirms that the more one walks, the better,”Professor Maciej Banach from the Medical University of Lodz
Significantly, each additional 1,000 steps per day was correlated with a 15% lower risk of mortality from any cause, while an extra 500 steps were linked to a 7% decrease in cardiovascular-related deaths.
The universal benefits of walking are highlighted by the study, regardless of one’s age, gender, or region of residence.
“It was observed that this was applicable to both genders and all age groups, regardless of the geographic area—be it temperate, subtropical, subpolar, or regions with mixed climates,”– noted Professor Banach.
This research arrives at a crucial juncture, as sedentary lifestyles, significantly prevalent worldwide, have been linked to a rise in cardiovascular diseases and a decrease in life expectancy.
Reportedly, more than a quarter of the global population does not partake in sufficient physical activity. This concern has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, further limiting mobility.
Insights into previously existing knowledge gaps were provided by Dr. Ibadete Bytyçi, the senior author of the study from the University Clinical Centre of Kosovo.
“Until this point, the ideal number of steps has not been clearly defined, neither in terms of the thresholds that initiate health benefits nor any potential upper limit, and how this influences individuals’ health,”expressed Dr. Bytyçi.
Moreover, the researchers considered age disparities in the benefits associated with step counts, identifying differing percentages of risk reduction between older and younger adults.
The paramount importance of lifestyle alterations was underscored by Professor Banach.
“In a world where increasingly advanced drugs target specific conditions like cardiovascular disease, I believe it should always be emphasized that lifestyle changes, encompassing diet and exercise, which played a crucial role in our analysis, might be at least as, or even more effective in decreasing cardiovascular risk and extending lifespans.”
Despite the extensive scope of the study, the observational research cannot definitively establish a causal relationship between increased step counts and reduced risks of death.
Furthermore, although the participants were generally healthy at the study’s outset, it was unable to consider racial and socioeconomic differences or diverse methods of step counting.
Enhancing overall health through walking
Walking, a fundamental yet frequently disregarded exercise, has demonstrated substantial health advantages. Here’s a more detailed examination of how walking can enhance well-being:
Heart and cardiovascular health
As emphasized in the recent global study, walking significantly diminishes the risk of heart and blood vessel ailments. Regular walking assists in reducing blood pressure, enhancing cholesterol levels, and promoting improved blood circulation, thus enhancing heart health.
Walking burns calories, contributing to weight control. A brisk 30-minute walk can burn approximately 150-200 calories. It aids in maintaining a healthy weight, lowering the risk of health issues related to obesity.
Mental health advantages
Walking doesn’t only benefit the body; it also proves advantageous for mental well-being. Research has revealed its ability to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety, enhance self-esteem, and uplift mood. Particularly, strolls amidst nature can be exceptionally calming and revitalizing.
Strengthening muscles and bones
Consistent walking cultivates muscular strength and endurance, particularly in the lower body. It also fortifies bones, increasing bone density, which holds significant importance as we grow older.
Reducing the risk of chronic ailments
Besides cardiovascular diseases, walking can assist in preventing other persistent conditions like type 2 diabetes. It aids in regulating blood sugar levels, thus helping to stave off diabetes.
Enhancing coordination and balance
Walking necessitates coordination and involves various muscle groups, thereby augmenting overall balance and flexibility.
Walking in groups or alongside friends encourages social connections and community involvement. This social element can offer an additional boost to mental well-being.
There is good evidence showing that inactivity and walking minimal steps/day increase the risk of cardiovascular (CV) disease and general ill-health. The optimal number of steps and their role in health is, however, still unclear. Therefore, in this meta-analysis, we aimed to evaluate the relationship between step count and all-cause mortality and CV mortality.