Walking 8,000 steps a couple days per week lowers mortality risk

ByAndrew Rhoades

Fact checked byShenaz Bagha


Key takeaways:

  • The risk for all-cause mortality was nearly 15% lower among people who walked 8,000 steps 1 to 2 days per week.
  • Researchers said walking over shortened periods may benefit those who cannot regularly exercise.

Walking the recommended daily step count even a couple days per week was associated with a significantly lower risk for all-cause and cardiovascular mortality over 10 years, according to a study published in JAMA Network Open.

“In modern society, lack of time is one of the major barriers to exercise,” Kosuke Inoue, MD, PhD, an assistant professor at Kyoto University in Japan, and colleagues wrote. “Previous studies have shown lower all-cause and cardiovascular mortality risks among weekend warriors compared with people consider to be physically inactive.”

Data derived from: Inoue K, et al. JAMA Netw Open. 2023;doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.5174.

They added that the estimated health benefits for “weekend warriors” was comparable to those with regular physical activity patterns, “indicating that concentration of physical activity into one or two sessions per week may be sufficient to reduce mortality risks.”

For the current study, Inoue and colleagues analyzed data from the 2005 and 2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to determine the potential mortality benefits from walking 8,000 steps a few days per week.

The study cohort included 3,101 participants with a mean age of 50.5 years, 51% of whom were women. Of the participants, 20.4% did not take 8,000 steps or more any day of the week, 17.2% took 8,000 steps 1 to 2 days per week and 62.5% took 8,000 steps 3 to 7 days per week.

Inoue and colleagues found that, compared with those who took 8,000 steps 0 days per week, 10-year all-cause mortality was lower among those who took 8,000 steps 1 to 2 days per week (adjusted risk difference [aRD] = -14.9%; 95% CI -18.8 to -10.9) and 3 to 7 days per week (aRD = -16.5%; 95% CI, -20.4 to -12.5).

In addition, 10-year cardiovascular morality was lower among those who walked 8,000 steps 1 to 2 days per week (aRD = -2%; 95% CI, -4.6 to 0.6) and 3 to 7 days per week (-4.0%; 95% CI, -6.2 to -1.7) compared with those who averaged those steps 0 days per week.

The researchers found similar reductions when using different daily step count thresholds. For example, the adjusted 10-year all-cause mortality risk was 8.1% and 7.4% for participants who walked 10,000 steps 1 to 2 days per week and 3 to 7 days per week, respectively. Likewise, the adjusted 10-year cardiovascular mortality risk was 2.4% for those who had 10,000 steps or more 1 to 2 days per week and 2.3% for those who walked 10,000 steps 3 to 7 days per week.

Inoue and colleagues highlighted several study limitations, which included uncertainty regarding the extent to which changes in physical activity contributed to mortality and potential residual confounding bias.

“Further longitudinal studies with larger sample sizes and time-varying measures of physical activity or step counts would be warranted to overcome this limitation,” they wrote.

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However, “given the simplicity and ease of counting daily steps, our findings indicate that the recommended number of steps taken on as few as 1 to 2 days per week may be a feasible option for individuals who are striving to achieve some health benefits through adhering to a recommended daily step count but are unable to accomplish this on a daily basis,” the researchers concluded.