Michael Hunter, MD on Medika Life

How Many Steps to Improve Health?

PHYSICAL ACTIVITY IS A KEY TO OPTIMIZING WELL-BEING. But how many steps do you need to take to improve your health?

We have only limited evidence on how much walking it takes to drop some pounds. Current physical activity recommendations suggest we aim for 150 to 300 minutes weekly of moderate- to vigorous-intensity exercise.

This expert guidance on physical activity translates to an average of 22 minutes daily on the low and 45 minutes on the high end.

Move More; Sit Less

Physical activity is anything that gets your body moving.

Visit: www.cdc.gov

You must be at the higher end of the physical activity recommendations for weight loss and maintenance. But how many steps does that mean? That is our question for today.

Our bodies are our gardens — our wills are our gardeners. — Shakespeare

Tracking steps facilitate weight loss

I wear a Fitbit, in part to monitor my sleep and also to track my steps. The device helps me with goal-setting.

Wearable fitness trackers and step counters help individuals who are overweight or have weight-related health conditions to lose weight, according to a pooled data analysis published by the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2021.

Researchers gathered data from 31 studies, including more than 2,200 people. The studies required subjects to wear fitness trackers (various types) and to set and meet weekly goals based on daily steps or minutes walked.

The most effective programs lasted at least 12 weeks. Those wearing research-grade fitness trackers lost the most weight (10 pounds) compared with those not using fitness tracers. Subjects wearing commercially available fitness trackers (such as my Fitbit) lost an average of six pounds and two BMI points.

The researchers observe that wearing a fitness tracker is a constant reminder to pursue health-related goals and remain active.

10,000 steps

“10,000 steps” is a common fitness goal that refers to the number of steps a person should aim to take in a day to maintain a healthy level of physical activity. It is believed to have originated from a marketing campaign for pedometer devices in Japan, where the goal of 10,000 steps was popularized as a way to encourage people to be more active.

Walking 10,000 steps a day can help you achieve several health benefits, such as improved cardiovascular health, increased energy levels, and weight management. It can also help reduce the risk of chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers.

It’s important to remember that 10,000 steps may not be the right goal for everyone, as it can vary depending on factors such as age, fitness level, and health conditions. Consulting with a doctor or a healthcare professional can help you determine the right number of steps.

Photo by Brian Mann on Unsplash

How many steps do you need to improve your health?

A study published in Obesity reports this important finding:

Getting 10,000 steps daily (with approximately 3,500 of those as moderate to vigorous activity for a minimum of ten minutes at a time) appeared to be associated with enhanced weight loss. This change occurred in the context of a calorie-restricted diet.

The results are not surprising: Cut calories and move, and you will achieve weight loss. I burn about 100 calories for every mile that I walk. But what about the relationship between the number of steps taken and other health measures?

A separate JAMA Internal Medicine story reported that for every 2,000 steps, the risk of early death dropped by about one-tenth (8 to 11 percent), up to 10,000 steps. Investigators also discovered that taking 9,800 steps per day was linked to the most benefit.

Can walking (or similar activity) reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, and dementia? The answer is yes. Writing in Nature Medicine, researchers made the following observations:

A daily walk totaling 10,000 steps was associated with a lower risk of heart disease, cancer, and dementia.

Physical activity has so many health benefits. We need to rethink what constitutes “exercise.” Very little movement can improve health.


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Michael Hunter, MD
Michael Hunter, MD
I received an undergraduate degree from Harvard, a medical degree from Yale, and trained in radiation oncology at the University of Pennsylvania. I practice radiation oncology in the Seattle area.

Michael Hunter, MD

I received an undergraduate degree from Harvard, a medical degree from Yale, and trained in radiation oncology at the University of Pennsylvania. I practice radiation oncology in the Seattle area.

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