Optimal Daily Step Count May Vary By Age

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It is widely known that walking offers numerous health benefits for both the body and mind. Studies have found associations between walking (especially at a faster pace) and blood sugar, inflammation, cognition and improved strength. Walking has also been shown to boost energy and mood, making it an ideal habit to combat the “midday slump.”

Contrary to popular belief, however, you might not need to take 10,000 steps a day to achieve all of these health benefits. Furthermore, step count likely varies depending on your age.

“…more steps taken per day was associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality…”

In a 2022 meta-analysis published in Lancet Public Health, researchers reviewed 15 studies that spanned from 1999 to 2018 and involved close to 50,000 individuals. While the study found that more steps taken per day was associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality, the association varied by age. The findings suggest that 6,000–8,000 steps per day is optimal for adults 60 years and older while 8,000–10,000 steps per day is optimal among adults younger than 60 years. At these step counts, “the hazard ratio for mortality plateaus,” meaning the health benefits do not increase past 8,000 or 10,000 steps respectively.

“…for older adults, there is likely less of an importance in striving to achieve the popularized 10,000 steps a day. “

Similar to the meta-analysis, a 2019 study found that increased step count resulted in lower mortality rate for older women, but only up to 7,500 steps per day. Achieving a daily step count over 7,500 did not have a greater positive impact. Therefore for older adults, there is likely less of an importance in striving to achieve the popularized 10,000 steps a day.

Older adults could need fewer steps to achieve the same health benefits potentially due to “mobility limitations and decreases in aerobic capacity.” Adults in the 60 years and over category may likely use more effort when walking compared to younger adults. This results in a similarly beneficial aerobic strain on the body.

It is important to note that the data is correlational, which means we cannot outright claim that walking definitely reduces all-cause mortality as there may be other factors to consider. For example, healthier individuals likely walk more in general or those who walk more engage in other activities that improve health outcomes.

“Aiming for 7,000–9,000 steps per day can be a valuable, and free, method for improving general health.”

Based on other studies, however, the numerous health benefits associated with walking likely aid in overall health and longevity. Additionally, we know that physical activity and movement is beneficial for both physical and mental health. Aiming for 7,000–9,000 steps per day can be a valuable, and free, method for improving general health.

“Park further away from your final destination, take the stairs instead of the elevator and go for short walks throughout the day…”

If this seems like an overwhelming and daunting task, take it slow. Track your current step count and simply add on an extra 500 or so steps per week and continue to work your way up. Park further away from your final destination, take the stairs instead of the elevator and go for short walks throughout the day to increase your daily step count without much extra effort.

Fiona Riddle Fiona is a Certified Health Coach with a degree in Psychology from UCLA. She is passionate about a holistic approach to health when working with her private coaching clients. She is an avid cook, constantly creating and sharing new recipes on her Instagram (@feelgoodwithfi) to showcase simple clean home cooking.

This article was reviewed and approved by Emeran Mayer, MD