Don’t underestimate the value of physical activity in your daily routine.

Researchers have confirmed that remaining physically active yields a number of health benefits, including reducing the risk of mortality. A new study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) indicated that taking at least 7,000 steps per day may decrease the risk of mortality by between 50% and 70%. Numerous studies have shown that physical activity is a key component of a healthful lifestyle. Incorporating 7,000 steps into each day’s routine can improve your quality of life.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has noted that remaining physically active contributes to improved physical and mental health. Routine physical activity can decrease the risks of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, reduce the risk of certain cancers, improve sleep quality, strengthen muscles and bones, help to maintain cognitive acuity, and reduce the risk of depression and anxiety.

Researchers continue to collect data on the subject of recommended daily step count for beneficial health results. For example, a study published in JAMA in 2020 found that the associated mortality risk for individuals who took 8,000 steps per day was significantly lower than the risk for those who took only 4,000 steps per day. Another 2020 study published in BMC Public Health found that a higher step count for 70-year-olds was associated with a lower incidence of diabetes.

The new research was conducted as part of the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults prospective cohort study, involving 2,110 participants between the ages of 38 and 50, 1,205 of whom were women and 888 of whom were black. Study authors wrote, “Our study extends research by examining a prospective cohort of middle-aged men and women of black and white race and the association of steps with premature mortality, considered deaths earlier than U.S. population mean life expectancy.”

Participants wore accelerometers for seven days to measure their average step counts. Devices were removed only during sleep and any water-based activities. Researchers followed up with the participants an average of 10.8 years later. During the follow-up period, 72 (3.4%) of the participants had died.

Researchers classified participants’ daily step counts into three categories, including low or fewer than 7,000 steps per day; moderate or 7,000 to 9,000 steps per day; or high, 10,000 steps per day or more. The researchers calculated the participants’ average daily step counts as well as average step intensity. They tracked the amount of time each day participants took 100 steps per minute or more, in addition to the highest number of steps per minute in any 30-minute period.

Included in researchers’ analysis were a number of health-related factors, including weight, body mass index, fasting blood glucose and cholesterol levels, blood pressure, history of smoking, alcohol intake, cardiovascular disease and use of medications for diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

Study findings showed that participants who took 7,000 steps per day or more had an approximately 50% to 70% lower mortality risks than those who took fewer than 7,000 steps per day. However, taking more than 10,000 steps per day was not associated with a greater reduction in mortality risk.

It’s never too late in life to add walking to your daily routine. Check with your provider to determine an activity program that’s appropriate for your age and health condition.

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