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March 25, 2020

Here's how many daily steps you need to potentially extend your life

The average American takes about 4,000 steps per day – but many more are necessary for good health

Fitness Walking
Steps to stay healthy Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

Increasing the number of daily steps you take could prolong your life, according to a new study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association. People who take at least 8,000 daily steps are 51% less likely to die of all-cause mortality compared to those who only get 4,000 steps. But the intensity of those steps does not matter.

The number of steps a person takes each day, regardless of their intensity, could lead to a longer lifespan.

Daily step counts have a strong association with mortality, research published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed.

But just how many are needed to reap these benefits? 

People who take 8,000 steps each day are 51% less likely to die of all-cause mortality than people who only take 4,000 steps, researchers found. Those who take 12,000 steps are 65% less likely to die.

For context, the average American takes between 3,000 and 4,000 daily steps – about to 1.5 to 2 miles, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Prior studies had shown that daily step counts of 10,000 or 15,000 are needed to have positive impacts on health, like improving heart heath among adults. Plus, any physical activity is beneficial for adults – even if their Fitbit tracker shows them falling short of their desired mark.  

"We wanted to investigate this question to provide new insights that could help people better understand the health implications of the step counts they get from fitness trackers and phone apps," study author Pedro Saint-Maurice, a researcher at the National Cancer Institute, told Science Daily. 

The intensity of those steps has little effect, researchers found. It doesn't matter how fast people walk as long as they walk often. This finding surprised researchers, as other studies have shown short-term intensity exercise to provide health benefits. 

The research was conducted by the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute on Aging and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Outdoor exercise while practicing social distancing is permitted under the "stay-at-home" orders in place in Pennsylvania, so people won't need a gym to stay healthy during the coronavirus crisis. Just walking around the neighborhood will help them reach the 8,000 to 12,000 daily steps that could add years to their lives.

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