How Much Should You Walk for Good Health?

Health and Gender Policy Brief #133 | By: S Bhimji | September 22, 2021

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Policy Summary

There is no question that walking is a good form of exercise. Not only is it free but it is safe. But how much walking is adequate for good health? Talk to ten fitness experts and one will most likely get 50 different answers. Today there are all types of gadgets that can monitor the number of steps you walk and the time it takes. Exercise fanatics have been tracking their steps for decades but a definitive daily goal has never been stated based on scientific evidence.

Personal fitness trainers have been recommending 10,000 steps a day and this number is included in most fitness gadgets. But where did this number come from? Have there been studies to show that 10,000 steps are the ideal number for good health? The answer is no.

The traditional goal of 10,000 steps was in fact a marketing ploy. Way back in the 1960s, a Japanese company released a step-tracking device and called it the ‘10,000 steps meter.’ Since then many fitness gadgets have employed this number as a way to guide consumers.

But the question is ‘Are 10,000 steps a day necessary for good health? Are they too little or too many?” Do people who walk 10,000 steps a day have better health?

Policy Analysis

A recent study just published in JAMA states that walking 7,000 steps a day may lower the risk of premature death. In an era of androids, iPhones, and wearable devices, this carries more significance. No longer will people have to wonder how many steps to walk to boost their health.

This study done by Boston researchers began in 2005 when they started to track 2,110 participants between ages 38-50 and followed them for an average of 11 years. The end result was that those who walked 7,000 steps a day had a 50-70 percent lower risk of premature death, compared to participants who walked less than 7,000 steps.

What stood out in the study was the 7,000 step milestone, which made a significant difference in health. This study is in stark contrast to the 10,000 step mark first established by the Japanese. The latest study showed that the 7,000 step mark was required to lower premature death and walking more was not associated with a further lowering of the death risk.

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Photo taken from: Quint Fit

This study now provides some insight into what middle-aged Americans should be aiming for every day- but it is also important to understand that there is no one number recommended by the federal government.

In the world of fitness, it has always been believed that more strenuous exercises are more effective at lowering the risk of death than walking. However, this study may help Americans view walking from a different perspective. It is important to have reachable goals that can be attained by the majority of the population.

One can start walking slowly and gradually increase the number of steps. The best thing about walking compared to many other exercises is that it can be done anywhere, it is free, allows you to enjoy nature, nurtures the mind, and is safe unless you get hit by a bus while texting.

Engagement Resources​

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Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition.


How much physical activity do adults need? –

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American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids

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