New Study Identifies How Many Steps to Take in a Day to Keep Weight Off (Prevention)

Posted: Oct 13, 2022 in In the News

The following article originally appeared in Prevention on October 13, 2022.

  • A new study found taking 8,200 steps per day can help lower the risk of obesity, sleep apnea, gastroesophageal acid reflux, and major depressive disorder.
  • Those classified as overweight who took up to 11,000 steps per day were able to lower their risk of obesity by 64%.
  • Most experts and researchers agree that getting in movement every day is the most important thing for optimal health.

We’ve heard time and time again to aim for 10,000 steps a day for optimal health, but new research says fewer may be just as good for you. A new study indicates that taking just 8,200 steps per day may protect you from a slew of chronic diseases and help keep weight off.

The study, published in Nature Journal, used electronic health record data from the All of Us research program, an initiative to accumulate health-related information from surveys and wearables in 1,000,000 or more Americans. Researchers examined step counts captured from over 6,000 participants’ Fitbit devices who wore the trackers at least 10 hours a day and consented for researchers to access health records. They found participants walked between 6,866.8 and 9,826.8 steps per day over a median of four years.

Researchers found the more steps people took over time, the less likely they were to develop obesity, sleep apnea, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and major depressive disorder. But what was really surprising was that they found taking about 8,200 daily steps protects against diseases, like diabetes and high blood pressure.

The scientists didn’t find any additional risk reduction for diabetes and high blood pressure after walking about 8,000 to 9,000 steps, but higher step counts added additional protection against other health issues, like GERD, sleep apnea, and major depressive disorder. Additionally, the study found those who are currently classified as overweight and who increase their steps from 6,000 to 11,000 steps per day were able to lower their risk of obesity by 64%.

The study did have some limitations, including that the participants were 73% women, 84% white people, and 71% people with a college degree. These demographics may not accurately predict the perfect step count for everyone and more research is needed for a more diverse group.

This new study echoes current research that has found walking can have some big health benefits. Recent research found a 2-minute walk after meals has the power to help lower the risk for type 2 diabetes. Walking has also been linked to bringing joy and lowering stress levels. Other benefits of walking every day include lowering blood pressure, maintaining a healthy weight, increasing longevity, boosting brain power, and even alleviating joint pain.

But, many experts agree that the number of steps you take isn’t as important as getting movement in every day. Current physical activity guidelines recommend adults do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise and two days of muscle-strengthening activity each week.

“Counting steps is useful because you can monitor yourself every day, but if the number of steps are your primary driver, you may not make the gains you expected,” Anthony J. Wall, senior director of global business development for the American Council on Exercise (ACE) and a certified personal trainer previously told Prevention. “What’s effective is the frequency, intensity, and duration of your activity. Focusing on steps is helpful for overall health, but it’s irrelevant if you’re slowly strolling around a museum all day.”

In short, we know lacing up your walking shoes and going for a stroll has some serious health perks, so if having a number of daily steps to achieve in mind helps you get some movement then we’re all for it. But, overall, getting in movement every day is key for overall health.



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