Woman walking on beach at sunset.

Maximum Wellness, Episode 116: 7,000 Daily Steps Reduces Mortality Rate in Middle-Aged Men & Women


The advent of wearable devices that track daily step count has provided not only population-based weight loss guidelines, but also recommendations for cardiovascular improvement.

Prior physical activity national guidelines recommended at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-to-vigorous-intensity exercise – which did not quantify stepping intensity with mortality risk.

Until now, most research has been targeted to an older demographic versus a younger, racially diverse population. Researchers, from a diverse group of investigators, chose to estimate the association of steps per day with premature age in Black and White men and women ages 41 to 65.

The prospective cohort study- Steps per Day and All-Cause Mortality in Middle-Aged Adults in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults, which appeared in the online edition of JAMA Network Open in September 2021, was part of the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study.

Participants, age 38 to 50 years, wore an accelerometer on the hip for seven consecutive days during all waking hours from 2005 to 2006. Participants were followed for 10.8 years. Data was analyzed in 2020 and 2021 – with an objective to establish mortality status.

Step volume was categorized as: less than 7,000 steps/day as low, 7,000 to less than 10,000 as moderate, and greater than 10,000 daily steps as high.

Participants, or designed family members, were contacted twice yearly to determine vital status. Requests were made, where applicable, for death certificates, hospital records for death, and autopsy reports.

When the data was compiled, the investigators determined that, “in this cohort study of Black and White middle-aged women and men, higher daily steps were associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality. Adults taking at least 7000 steps/d, compared with those taking fewer than 7000 steps/d, had approximately 50% to 70% lower risk of mortality. Taking more than 10,000 steps/d was not associated with further reduction in mortality risk.”

It was concluded that, “taking at least 7000 steps/d during middle adulthood was associated with a lower risk of mortality. There was no association of step intensity with mortality. Improving physical activity levels in the least active segment of the population by encouraging increasing steps/d may be associated with lower mortality risk.”