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A study emphasises step counts to reduce the risks of obesity and other diseases

by Rishika Choudhury

Date & Time: Oct 27, 2022 10:00 AM

Read Time: 3 minute

Several research studies have discussed how a lack of physical activity, particularly walking, can increase the risk of developing life-threatening diseases. This has sparked a lot of interest in people walking just to keep up with the recommended number of steps.

You must have noticed that everyone else in the park who is out for an evening stroll is taking note of the steps in the fit band.

Walking 10,000 steps is considered the golden rule for physical fitness and has been unquestionably adopted by weight watchers.

What inspired this theory? Though the exact or single source of walking 10,000 steps is unknown, it has been extracted from several research studies.

What is the truth?

A new study published in Nature Medicine titled "Association of step counts over time with the risk of chronic disease in the All of Us Research Program" discusses the validity of the claims behind walking 10,000 steps per day and how other factors play a role in it.

More than 6,000 people took part in the study, with 73% of them being women. The participants' median age was 56.7, and their BMI was 28.1 kg per metre square.

"Using the electronic health records data from the All of Us Research Program, we show that step count volumes as captured by participants’ own Fitbit devices were associated with risk of chronic disease across the entire human phenome," the researchers have said.

What did the study find?

Higher daily step counts were found to be associated with a lower risk of several common chronic diseases, including diabetes, hypertension, GERD, MDD, obesity, and sleep apnea.

The study discovered an inverse and linear relationship between steps per day and incident disease in obesity, sleep apnea, depressive disorders, and gastroesophageal 
reflux disease. The researchers discovered that taking more than 8,200 steps per day was associated with a lower risk of incident disease.

It also found that the number of walking steps was not linearly associated with diseases like diabetes and hypertension "with no further risk reduction above 8,000–9,000 steps."

What is the ideal number of steps?

"Clinicians could monitor activity trends and provide evidence-based anticipatory guidance for activity tailored to an individual’s clinical characteristics and risk profile," the researchers have said and added that for example, our data suggest that an individual with a BMI of 28 kg m–2 (can lower their risk of obesity 64% (95% CI 51, 80) by 
increasing steps from approximately 6,000 steps to 11,000 steps per day.

Step intensity is important

This study has also emphasized on the step intensity along with step counts.

Step intensity has been defined as slow walking. "Regardless of how step intensity was defined, that is, slow walking or moderate to vigorous activity, it was associated with lower risk of chronic diseases," the study report says.

"Step intensity (defined as slow walking) also remained significantly associated with obesity, sleep apnea, MDD, GERD and hypertension after adjusting for step count," it adds.

Benefits of walking

Walking is a low impact exercise which improves circulation in the body. There are several benefits of walking:

• It effectively reduces weight

• It can help you deal with stressful eating situations

• It reduces the risk of breast cancer

• It eases joint pain

• It improves immune function

• It tones the leg and abdominal muscles

• 30 minutes of brisk walking can burn up to 150 calories

• It improves mood


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