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Is 7,000 Steps The New 10,000 if You Want to Live Longer?
By Nikolina Ilic | Oct 22, 2021
By Di Westaway OAM| CEO Wild Women On Top.
When I first heard my iPhone was tracking my steps, I assumed I’d be A Very Good Stepper.
Above average, for sure.
I was gobsmacked when my tracker told me I only averaged a measly 3,000 steps a day, including my weekly hikes. 3000! What the?!
I became convinced this inactivity was going to send me to an early grave, so I did a bit of research and discovered 10,000 steps was the ticket. The magic number. The elixir of youth. If I got my 10,000 steps in every day, I could forget about the gym, the yoga, the Pilates, the stretching, the swimming, the biking, and the hiking. I became obsessed.
But it was hard. I quickly realised that for those of us with desk jobs and a devotion to devices, it’s difficult to find time for 10,000 bloody steps. Some days it’s downright impossible.
I had to learn new ways of living. New daily habits.
Phone meetings became walkie-talkies. Office drinks became sip-and-strolls. Board meetings became meet-and-march. I parked further away from everywhere, used the upstairs bathroom and walked to the shops in my lunchbreak. I took my phone to the loo (28 steps), to do the bins (74 steps) and to the washing line (59 steps).
But then it got worse.
I figured that if 10,000 steps was good, 15,000 steps must be better, so I challenged myself to do 15,000 steps a day. Some days, I went for 20,000, and felt smugger than smug.
I know I’m not alone in this. Fitbit addiction is so common it’s become a meme. The joke that “exercise doesn’t count if you don’t track it” is so real that it’s not even funny anymore.
So when I heard about this new research showing 7000 steps, rather than 10,000, was enough, I was flabbergasted. In this study out of the US, walkers who took 7000 or more steps a day experienced lower mortality rates than walkers who took less than 7000 steps a day by 50 – 70%. WTF!
The study also found those who did more than 10,000 steps a day didn’t further reduce their chance of dying younger.
So was all my extra walking wasted? And should we all ditch the magic 10 thousand in favour of the more achievable 7?
Well, yes and no.
7000 is great. It’s awesome for your longevity and if you hit it daily, you should be congratulating yourself. And you most definitely shouldn’t feel guilty for not reaching 10,000.
But more is still better. Always. In the words of the World Health Organisation’s 2020 Guidelines on Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour: “Every move counts towards better health.”
More movement reduces our risk of depression, anxiety and cognitive decline. It delays the onset of dementia. It makes us physically and mentally stronger. It relieves pain and reduces stress. It puts more life into our years, as well as more years into our life.
Dr Ruediger Krech, Director of Health Promotion at the World Health Organisation says: “Physical activity of any type, and any duration can improve health and wellbeing, but more is always better… if you must spend a lot of time sitting still, whether at work or school, you should do more physical activity to counter the harmful effects of sedentary behaviour.”
7000 might be the new 10,000 but both are just a guide. There is no magic bullet. There is no perfect number that’ll give you the elixir of life. What really matters is tuning into your mind, body and spirit and giving it what it’s needs, even when you’d rather stay on the couch.
Move it lots every day, in a whole variety of ways. Whether that’s stepping or biking or surfing or yoga or sex or gardening or Pilates or Crossfit… it doesn’t really matter. Find fun physical activities and do them daily. For life.
Because when it comes to exercise in our sedentary world, more is pretty much always better.
About the author:
Di Westaway OAM is the Founder & CEO of Wild Women on Top, one of Australia’s most popular women’s health movements. Their flagship Coastrek Program has transformed millions of lives globally through fitness and fundraising inspiring tens of thousands of woman to walk for mental health while raising funds for Beyond Blue. Registrations for Coastrek 2022 events in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide are now open for teams of four walking, and talking, for 30 to 60km along spectacular coastal trails: www.coastrek.com.au
Nikolina is the web-obsessed Digital Editor at Men's and Women's Health, responsible for all things social media and .com. A lover of boxing, she spends most of the time in the gym or with her husband and daughter. She was previously a Digital Editor at GQ and Vogue magazine.
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