ARE YOU A STEPS-PER-DAY COUNTER?
My Fitbit tells me how many steps I take each day. It has a suggested default of 10,000 steps. Some days I reach that amount, but most days I don’t—but then it doesn’t take in my biking or swimming activities very accurately, which I think should also count.
You might use a step counter such as your smartphone or a wearable device. And you may wonder—especially as a senior—how many steps per day to shoot for. I found an October 1, 2019 online article by Anthony L. Komaroff, M.D. Editor in Chief, Harvard Health Letter, that especially addresses this: How many steps should I take each day? Here are excerpts:
Smartphones and wearable devices now give us a tool for measuring how physically active we are: a count of the number of steps we take each day. Great, but what should our goal be?
The best study of that question was published in May 2019, from colleagues here at Harvard Medical School. Before I tell you about the study, permit me a brief digression. Where does all this advice about healthy lifestyle come from? Some people imagine that a bunch of academic experts sit around a table and off the top of their heads decide what the answers should be. In fact, the advice we give is based on data — studies like the one I’m about to describe.
Harvard Medical School Study
The study gave nearly 17,000 older women (average age 72) a device that counted every step during waking hours, for seven consecutive days. The number of people who died over the next four years was compared in four groups, each with an increasing average number of steps per day: 2,718 steps (least active), 4,363 steps, 5,905 steps, and 8,442 steps (most active). Rigorous statistical techniques were used to account for the influence of things besides activity level that might have affected the women’s risk of dying, like diseases they might have had.
The conclusion: at about 7,500 steps per day, the risk of death was about 40% lower than for the least active group. Above 7,500 steps, there was not a clear additional benefit. Also, the vigorousness of the steps (like how fast one walked) did not seem to bring additional benefits. The study only involved women with an average age of 72, but I think it’s reasonable to assume it also applies to men of that age.
Dr. Komaroff added: Based on this and other studies, what do I — as a man in my 70s — do? I am pretty good about doing moderate activity for 30 minutes at least five days a week. I consult my smartphone every day, and my goal is at least 7,500 steps per day. Until and unless better data emerge, I’d advise the same for you.