Feature

Walking intensity and step count are linked to health benefits


 

FROM JAMA INTERNAL MEDICINE

Data contribute evidence toward step count recommendations

The data are observational and do not prove cause and effect, the researchers noted. Still, the authors said the study “contributes critical evidence toward step count–based recommendations” for physical activity.

Guidelines of the United States and the World Health Organization recommend 150 minutes of moderately intense activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity weekly plus strength training twice a week.

Given the proliferation of activity trackers in phones and watches, recommendations based on steps could be especially useful for individuals who don’t intentionally record their physical activity, the researchers wrote.

“It’s nice to have a study that puts some science behind steps counts,” cardiologist Nieca Goldberg, MD, a clinical associate professor of medicine at New York University, and a spokesperson for the American Heart Association, said of the findings.

Dr. Nieca Goldberg, medical director of the NYU Langone Womens' Heart Program, New York City

Dr. Nieca Goldberg

Particularly important, said Dr. Goldberg, who was not involved in the study, is the lack of a minimum threshold for health benefits, since the 10,000-step target may be daunting for some individuals.

Only one in five participants in this latest study achieved 10,000 steps per day, according to the paper.

The authors wrote that promotion of lower step targets “may provide a more realistic and achievable goal for the general adult population,” and longevity gains “may be maximized simply by shifting away from the least-active end of the step-count distribution.”

Dr. Goldberg put it this way: “Take a walk. Try to aspire to 10,000 steps. But if you can only do 6,000 or 8,000, you get benefit there, too.”

Cathy Handy Marshall, MD, MPH, an assistant professor of oncology at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, who was not involved in the new study, said the findings can be used to guide “exercise prescriptions,” but more research is needed to tailor recommendations, particularly for individuals who cannot achieve high step counts.

Dr. Del Pozo Cruz said the findings need to be replicated in other populations.

The study authors, Dr. Goldberg, and Dr. Handy Marshall reported no relevant competing interests.

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