Association of Daily Step Patterns With Mortality in US Adults

Dr. Beate Ritz, MD


Importance: Previous studies have shown that individuals who regularly walk, particularly 8000 daily steps or more, experience lower mortality. However, little is known about the health benefits of walking intensively only a few days a week.

Objective: To evaluate the dose-response association between the number of days an individual takes 8000 steps or more and mortality among US adults.

Design, setting, and participants: This cohort study evaluated a representative sample of participants aged 20 years or older in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys 2005-2006 who wore an accelerometer for 1 week and their mortality data through December 31, 2019. Data were analyzed from April 1, 2022, to January 31, 2023.

Exposures: Participants were grouped by the number of days per week they took 8000 steps or more (0 days, 1-2 days, and 3-7 days).

Main outcomes and measures: Multivariable ordinary least squares regression models were used to estimate adjusted risk differences (aRDs) for all-cause and cardiovascular mortality during the 10-year follow-up, adjusting for potential confounders (eg, age, sex, race and ethnicity, insurance status, marital status, smoking, comorbidities, and average daily step counts).

Results: Among 3101 participants (mean [SD] age, 50.5 [18.4] years; 1583 [51.0%] women and 1518 [49.0%] men; 666 [21.5%] Black, 734 [23.7%] Hispanic, 1579 [50.9%] White, and 122 [3.9%] other race and ethnicity), 632 (20.4%) did not take 8000 steps or more any day of the week, 532 (17.2%) took 8000 steps or more 1 to 2 days per week, and 1937 (62.5%) took 8000 steps or more 3 to 7 days per week. Over the 10-year follow-up, all-cause and cardiovascular deaths occurred in 439 (14.2%) and 148 (5.3%) participants, respectively. Compared with participants who walked 8000 steps or more 0 days per week, all-cause mortality risk was lower among those who took 8000 steps or more 1 to 2 days per week (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%). The dose-response association for both all-cause and cardiovascular mortality risk was curvilinear; the protective association plateaued at 3 days per week. Different thresholds for the number of daily steps between 6000 and 10 000 yielded similar results.

Conclusions and relevance: In this cohort study of US adults, the number of days per week taking 8000 steps or more was associated with a lower risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality in a curvilinear fashion. These findings suggest that individuals may receive substantial health benefits by walking just a couple days a week.

To learn more, click here.