Ten thousand steps a day: essential or overblown and unnecessary? The ubiquitous goal of fitness tracker users everywhere been called both, but a new study finds one thing is certain: Getting in more steps per day could lower your risk of an early death, even if you don't hit the "magic" 10,000 number. Researchers looked at 4,840 participants aged 40 or older and found that higher step counts were associated with a lower risk of death from any cause over the course of a decade. A study co-author explains that people who generally hit around 4,000 to 5,000 steps per day "can get substantial benefit from increasing to 8,000 steps a day," while those already hitting 8,000 could benefit from going up from there.
The study took into account age, sex, health, smoking, and other factors, per the Guardian. Taking 8,000 steps per day was linked to a 50% lower risk of early death compared to taking 4,000 steps per day; those who took 12,000 steps per day had a 65% lower risk. Meanwhile, taking only 2,000 steps per day was associated with a 50% higher risk of early death compared to 4,000. Researchers looked at the intensity of the steps, as measured by steps taken per minute, and found it had no significant impact, though one expert not involved in the study says it's still possible that a faster pace would yield even greater benefits. Of course, since this study is being released during the COVID-19 pandemic, a UK expert who commented on it made sure to note that while you should walk, keep at least 6 feet away from others. (Read more fitness tracker stories.)