Taking 7,000 Steps a Day May Be the Key to Living Longer

Two women going for a walk together.

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Key Takeaways

  • A study conducted by researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst found that taking a minimum of 7,000 steps per day was associated with a 50 to 70% lower chance of early death among middle-aged adults.
  • There are simple steps you can take to increase your daily steps like taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Researchers hope to expand on the study and explore how step count impacts younger folks.

Reaching 10,000 steps a day has long been touted as the optimum goal to reach in order to stay healthy and active. But a new study suggests you can walk fewer steps a day and reap similar health benefits.

In an effort to demystify the 10,000 steps gold standard, researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst conducted a study to explore its impact on health. 

The study found that men and women aged 38 to 50 who took approximately 7,000 steps per day experienced a lower chance of early death compared to participants that took fewer than 7,000 steps per day. For people who reached 10,000 steps and beyond, there were no documented harms or additional benefits.

“We show that taking at least 7,000 steps per day or greater was associated with a 50 to 70% lower risk of premature death,” Amanda Paluch, PhD, assistant professor in the department of kinesiology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the study’s first author, tells Verywell.

Where Did the 10,000 Steps Recommendation Originate?

Epidemiologist I-Min Lee and her colleagues found that in 1965, the Yamasa Clock and Instrument Company in Japanese named their new pedometer the Manpo-kei, which means “10,000 steps meter,” as a means to market the new tool. However, that number became the gold standard for exercise without any scientific backing.

The September study was published in the journal JAMA Network Open.

7,000 Steps May Be the Sweet Spot

For the study, researchers used data from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study, which began in 1985.

Researchers looked at 2,110 participants who wore an ActiGraph 7164 accelerometer—a device to track movement and steps per day—in 2005 or 2006. They wore it on the hip for seven consecutive days during all waking hours except during sleep and water-based activities.

Accelerometers are typically found in Fitbits and Apple watches, Paluch says.

To balance the sample, participants were recruited by race (Black and White), sex, age, and education from four U.S. locations:

  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Birmingham, Alabama
  • Oakland, California

Participants underwent in-person examinations at the start of the study and every few years. They were followed for nearly 11 years after that. The data was then analyzed in 2020 and 2021.

Researchers found that while 10,000 steps can be a good health goal, adults can still experience significant health benefits from only 7,000 steps per day. In fact, that reduction in morality rates leveled off at approximately 7,500 steps per day.

In future studies, Paluch hopes to understand how step count impacts cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, mental health, and cancer.

“We’re hoping to pursue other additional outcomes, as well as looking at various age and gender differences,” Paluch says.

Research Shows That Step Counts Matter

The findings of this study are consistent with previous data. Research has shown that more steps were associated with a lower risk of death of all causes. For example, one study found that more steps taken per day among older women were associated with lower mortality until 7,500 steps.

Additionally, one study found that increased intensity of physical activity, such as high-intensity interval training, decreased all-cause mortality in older adults.

And according to Seema Bonney, MD, board-certified anti-aging and regenerative medicine doctor based in Philadelphia, step count can have significant effects on other aspects of health.

“We know that step count has significant effects on heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, and even mood,” Bonney tells Verywell.

What This Means For You

If you are a middle-aged adult, researchers recommend a minimum of 7,000 steps per day. To measure step count, you can purchase a pedometer or utilize a pedometer on a device such as a Fitbit or Apple watch. 

How You Can Get More Steps In

The findings of this study suggest that incremental improvements in step count can be especially helpful for middle-aged adults.

“If you’re at 4,000 steps, get to 5,000, and 5,000 to 6,000,” Paluch explains. “The great thing about steps is it provides an opportunity to think about getting physical activity into our everyday routines.”

Existing research shows that step count can be influenced by where a person lives. People tend to get more steps in when they live in rural and suburban areas compared to urban areas. 

If you are living in an urban area, Paluch and Bonney suggest incorporating more steps by:

  • Taking a longer route to get to the bus or train stop
  • Walking to work
  • Taking the stairs instead of escalators or elevators

“These small tactics could lead up to some incremental increases in your steps and therefore may benefit your health,” Paluch says.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Paluch AE, Gabriel KP, Fulton JE, et al. Steps per day and all-cause mortality in middle-aged adults in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study. JAMA Netw Open. 2021;4(9):e2124516. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.24516

  2. Lee IM, Shiroma EJ, Kamada M, Bassett DR, Matthews CE, Buring JE. Association of step volume and intensity with all-cause mortality in older women. JAMA Intern Med. 2019;179(8):1105-1112. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2019.0899

  3. Stensvold D, Viken H, Steinshamn SL, et al. Effect of exercise training for five years on all cause mortality in older adults—the Generation 100 study: randomised controlled trial. BMJ. 2020;371:m3485. doi:10.1136/bmj.m3485

  4. Johnson TG, Brusseau TA, Vincent Graser S, Darst PW, Kulinna PH. Step counts of 10- to 11-year-old children by ethnicity and metropolitan status. J Phys Act Health. 2010;7(3):355-363. doi:10.1123/jpah.7.3.355

By Kayla Hui, MPH
Kayla Hui, MPH is the health and wellness ecommerce writer at Verywell Health.She earned her master's degree in public health from the Boston University School of Public Health and BA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.