Just 4,000 Steps a Day Could Reduce Risk of Death, Study Shows


A new analysis of over 17 studies around the world found that walking at least 3,967 steps per day started to reduce the risk of dying from any cause, a number previously thought to be much higher. However, the results also showed that more walking was associated with greater health benefits. 

Published in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology, the analysis was led by Maciej Banach, MD, PhD, FNLA, FAHA, FESC, Professor of Cardiology at the Medical University of Lodz, Poland, and Adjunct Professor at the Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease at John Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. According to the paper’s authors, sufficient evidence suggests that inactivity is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and other health problems. For this investigation, Banach and his colleagues aimed to evaluate the relationship between daily steps and the risk of all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease and determine the step count needed to start seeing health benefits.

The study included data from over 226,889 people. Overall, the study showed that as daily step counts increased, so did health benefits, including a greater reduction in risk of all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease. The study found that health benefits continued to increase even at 20,000 steps per day. Yet, the analysis also suggested that at as little as 2,337, the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease began to decrease.

“Until now, it’s not been clear what is the optimal number of steps, both in terms of the cut-off points over which we can start to see health benefits, and the upper limit, if any, and the role this plays in people’s health,” said senior author, Ibadete Bytyçi, MD, PhD, FESC, of the University Clinical Centre of Kosovo, Pristina, Kosovo. “However, I should emphasize that there were limited data available on step counts up to 20,000 a day, and so these results need to be confirmed in larger groups of people.”

In addition to step count, the analysis assessed how age, sex, and where people lived impacted their risk of dying from all-cause and cardiovascular disease. Researchers found that the reduction in risk of death was smaller in people aged 60 years or older. Older adults who walked between 6,000 and 10,000 steps daily showed a 42 percent reduction in risk, while those under 60 walking 7,000 to 13,000 steps daily showed a 49 percent reduction. However, the study found that the health benefits of walking generally apply to most people, regardless of age, sex, or climate. These results, researchers said, highlight the significance of walking and exercise for overall health.

“In a world where we have more and more advanced drugs to target specific conditions such as cardiovascular disease, I believe we should always emphasize that lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise, which was a main hero of our analysis, might be at least as, or even more effective in reducing cardiovascular risk and prolonging lives,” said Banach. “We still need good studies to investigate whether these benefits may exist for intensive types of exertion, such as marathon running and iron man challenges, and in different populations of different ages and with different associated health problems. However, it seems that, as with pharmacological treatments, we should always think about personalizing lifestyle changes.”