Walking 10,000 steps a day is a worthwhile goal, but may requires some time and efforts.
A new study at Oregon State University suggests that if you find that unattainable, don’t despair – a smaller number, especially at moderate or greater intensity, can lead to health benefits too.
It is especially helpful if people take 3,000 steps at a brisk pace and limit the sitting time. These can help reduce cholesterol and other risk factors.
Currently, the average American takes between 5,000 and 7,000 steps per day.
When it comes to steps, more is better than fewer. Higher walking speed for a significant amount of time is especially beneficial.
A good target for healthy adults is 150 minutes per week spent at 100 or more steps per minute. And in terms of time spent on sitting, less is better.
In the study, the researchers analyzed data from 3,388 participants age 20 and older in a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
They analyzed cadence (steps per minute). A cadence of 100 steps per minute or greater is widely accepted as the threshold for moderate-intensity activity in adults.
In addition, the researchers looked at relationships between step-defined physical activity and risks of heart and metabolic diseases for the survey participants.
The risk factors include waist circumference, blood pressure, fasting glucose, insulin, and cholesterol levels, as well as body mass index (BMI).
The researchers found that among male participants, only the highest quintile (the top 1/5) had more than 10,000 steps per day. Among women, the top quintile’s step number was 9,824.
Moreover, among all survey participants, only the top quintile had a peak cadence – 96 steps per minute – that was in line with accepted physical activity guidelines of 30 minutes a day at 100 steps per minute.
Analysis across all quintiles showed a strong relationship between higher walking speed and lower risks of heart and metabolic diseases. The same held true for number of steps, whether above or below the 10,000-step threshold.
And higher percentages of sitting time were linked to higher risks of heart and metabolic diseases.
Researchers suggest that moderate to vigorous activity and sitting time have a certain amount of independence from each other in terms of health effects.
If people get 2-3 hours of moderate to vigorous activity every day, even if they’re relatively sedentary the rest of the time, it is less likely that the sitting time would completely wipe out the health benefits associated with physical activity.