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NIH Record - 75th Anniversary - National Institutes of Health

Higher Daily Step Count Linked with Lower All-Cause Mortality

A man and woman walk their dog

A new study found higher daily step counts were associated with lower mortality risk from all causes.

In a new study, higher daily step counts were associated with lower mortality risk from all causes. The research team, which included investigators from NCI and NIA as well as from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, also found that the number of steps a person takes each day, but not the intensity of stepping, had a strong association with mortality.

The findings were published Mar. 24 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“While we knew physical activity is good for you, we didn’t know how many steps per day you need to take to lower your mortality risk or whether stepping at a higher intensity makes a difference,” said Dr. Pedro Saint-Maurice of NCI’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, first author of the study. 

“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.”

Previous studies have been done on step counts and mortality. However, they were conducted primarily with older adults or among people with debilitating chronic conditions. 

This study tracked a representative sample of U.S. adults age 40 and over; approximately 4,800 participants wore accelerometers for up to 7 days between 2003 and 2006. The participants were then followed for mortality through 2015 via the National Death Index. 

The researchers calculated associations between mortality and step number and intensity after adjustment for demographic and behavioral risk factors, body mass index and health status at the start of the study.

They found that, compared with taking 4,000 steps per day, a number considered to be low for adults, taking 8,000 steps per day was associated with a 51 percent lower risk for all-cause mortality (or death from all causes). 

Taking 12,000 steps per day was associated with a 65 percent lower risk compared with taking 4,000 steps. 

In contrast, the authors saw no association between step intensity and risk of death after accounting for the total number of steps taken per day.

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