- A new study suggests that wearing a tracker and increasing your steps may reduce your risk of many common chronic diseases.
- The study indicated that taking approximately 8,200 steps each day provides protection against obesity, sleep apnea, gastroesophageal reflux disease and major depressive disorder.
- Experts say the results are encouraging but believe more research is needed with more diverse participating groups. They agree that adding movement to your daily life is beneficial and offer tips on simple ways to do so.
Do you want to reduce your risk of many chronic diseases and obesity? It might be best to take it step by step – literally.
Using a Fitbit device to track and increase the number of daily steps can reduce a person’s risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and sleep apnea, according to
In general, the risk of developing diseases decreased as the number of steps a person increased, except for high blood pressure and diabetes. The risk of these two conditions has stabilized at approximately 8,000 to 9,000 daily steps.
One doctor sees the results as encouraging but interprets them with caution.
Dr. says. Bayou Carrie Winchell, physician, TEDx speaker, and founder of Beyond Clinical Walls. “However, it is a motivator and is not a substitute for knowing your general health.”
Furthermore, the optimal number of steps for the capabilities of health and wearable devices to accurately calculate steps has been a topic of debate in the medical and fitness communities. Does this study do anything to settle the result?
Curry-Winchell and other providers have focused on studying, steps, fitness trackers, and how to add more movement to your everyday life.
The new study included more than 6,000 participants ages 41 to 67 with a body mass index (BMI) of 24.3 (healthy weight range) to 32.9 (obese).
These participants came from all of us An initiative launched by the National Institutes of Health in 2018 to collect health data from at least 1 million Americans.
Researchers analyzed four years of activity and health data from participants who wore wearable Fitbits for at least 10 hours a day and allowed the researchers access to their electronic health records.
One limitation – which the authors acknowledged in the study – was the demographics of the participants.
- 73% were female
- 84% were white
- 71% have a university degree
“Although validation of a more diverse sample is needed, these findings provide a realistic evidence base for clinical guidance regarding the activity levels necessary to reduce disease risk,” the researchers wrote.
The results indicate:
- More than 8,200 steps per day (about four miles) can protect against obesity, sleep apnea, gastroesophageal reflux disease and major depressive disorder.
- People who are overweight can reduce their obesity risk by 64% by increasing their steps from 6000 to 11,000 per day.
- As the number of steps increased, the risk of most cases decreased.
- The risks of high blood pressure and diabetes did not continue to decrease once participants took about 8,000 to 9,000 steps per day.
“Increasing physical activity, including increasing the number of steps you take, helps increase your metabolism, improve your heart health, and burn calories,” he says. Dr. Jessica SimpkinsHe is a graduate of the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine and founder of My father’s association. “In many cases, the more you move your body, the lower your risk of developing diseases associated with being overweight or inactive.”
Carrie Winchell agrees that the sample size wasn’t diverse enough, but says the study is encouraging for people who don’t often reach the recommended 10,000 steps per day mark.
“Walking is beneficial even if you don’t achieve 10,000 steps a day,” Curry-Winchell says. “Do your best to walk and be as active as possible, and when there is an opportunity to walk a little more – do it. The number of steps you take per day can help reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure and diabetes in general.”
These days, we can track everything from calories to minutes and steps to exercise by wearing a watch like Apple or a tracker like Fitbit. It can help people reach fitness goals or standards set by providers (and wearables), such as suggesting 10,000 steps.
But exactly how many steps equate to a healthy lifestyle and the accuracy of these devices is debatable.
“The 10,000-step recommendation comes from… 1960s marketing. It was an arbitrary choice” Zahi Ali FayyadPh.D., director of the Institute of Biomedical Engineering and Imaging and director of the Cardiovascular Imaging Program at Mount Sinai.
Yamasa launched a pedometer with the “manpokei” logo, which translates to 10,000 steps per day, in 1965. This mantra has, over time, become an arbitrary standard, Fayyad explains.
The new study calls for anywhere from 8,200 to 11,000 steps.
These studies are not apples to apples (for example, the 2018 study was on Japanese aged 71 versus the new study including adults aged 41 to 67).
However, it can be confusing – how many steps should you take for your health?
“More data is needed…extracting details of the direct impact of a specific number of steps per person,” he says Dr. Nora LansonPrimary Care Physician and Virtual Clinical Director with Galileo. “Despite the research, clinicians don’t think people should focus so much on exact numbers.”
It may seem like a depressing answer – wearables have made us rely on data about our health and fitness. Lansen suggests a broad-based approach.
“For the high-quality evidence to support the hypothesis that the actual number of steps is influential, I recommend focusing less on the number of steps and more on incorporating regular daily exercise in any form,” says Lansen.
Experts say that instead of focusing on a specific number, it is better to focus more on how you feel.
“Do the exercises that feel energized and enjoyable,” says Lansen. “If that’s walking — great. It’s a great form of fitness. But until then, I’ve been advocating focusing on movement, breathing, and focus rather than just counting steps.”
Data regarding the accuracy of the number of steps for wearable devices is also mixed. They’re generally correct within 5-10%, Fayyad says, so a wearable indicating 10,000 steps per day may have taken 500 to 1,000 steps more or less than what the tracker says.
Only Garmin Vivosmart HR + and Leaf Health Tracker were reliable in each case.
Although there may be inaccurate steps involved, Simpkins says that wearables can be useful.
“Trackers can help you stay accountable to your goal of increasing your steps over time,” she says. “Some may be more accurate than others, but as long as you are using the same device, it should be able to reliably track your progress over time. Seeing that progress can help you stay motivated.”
Although the number of steps may be up for debate, a healthcare professional says the idea that movement can improve mental and physical health outcomes is a ready one and is worthwhile.
“The steps have beneficial effects for the whole body,” he says. Dr. Leslie SaltzmanThe Chief Medical Officer of Ovia Health. “It makes your heart and lungs work better, increases muscle strength, reduces inflammation in the body, and basically improves nearly every organ.”
Her four favorite methods are:
- Skip driving. “Walk to the store if it’s not far. Use public transportation if it’s available,” Saltzman says.
- Park on the edge of a lot. If you are driving, choose a place away from the place or store. “Those extra few minutes add up,” Saltzman says. (Bonus: If you’re shopping, your trip will include some resistance training from your full bags.)
- Go up the stairs. When appropriate, Saltzman suggests skipping the elevator or escalator.
- Walk and talk at the same time. Saltzman suggests calling a friend, family member, or co-worker while walking. This will help you multitask and may take your mind off the move if it’s something that helps.
Adding more movement is important, but Saltzman advises against going from 2,000 to 8,200 steps per day.
“I think the most important thing anyone can do is gradually increase the number of steps they take over time,” Simpkins says.
For example, if you can only walk down your driveway once at the moment, try to walk your driveway twice a week later.
“If you can walk 2,000 steps, gradually increase to 3,000 steps. The more activity you can do safely without compromising on good form, the lower your risk of certain diseases,” Simpkins says.
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