Just 7,500 steps a day lowers mortality in older women, study says

In the world of step goals and activity trackers, the number 10,000 can sound like a magic one. A large body of evidence shows that physical activity is good for health and longevity, and many wearable devices that track the steps a person takes each day come preprogrammed with a daily goal of 10,000. But few studies have examined how many steps a day are associated with long-term health outcomes.

A new study led by investigators from Brigham and Women’s Hospital sought to address this knowledge gap by examining outcomes over an average of more than four years for older women in the Women’s Health Study who had measured their steps for a full week. The team reports that, among this cohort, as few as 4,400 steps a day was significantly associated with lower risk of death compared with taking 2,700 steps a day. Risk of death continued to decrease with more steps taken but leveled off at around 7,500 steps a day — less than the default goal in many wearables. The team’s results were presented Tuesday at the American College of Sports Medicine Annual Meeting and published in JAMA Internal Medicine.