You Don't Need to Walk 10,000 Steps a Day to Stay Healthy as You Age, New Research Shows

Your step goals might actually decrease over time—but science says it won't negatively impact your health.

While science has long noted that walking 10,000 daily steps is the key to wellness, you don't actually have to hit that number to stay healthy as you get older. In fact, walking significantly fewer steps (nearly 5,000 daily!) at age 60 has just as many benefits when it comes to wellness and longevity, according to research reported in Consumer Reports.

While the reasoning behind the highly-touted 10,000 step goal makes sense—the more you walk, the longer you'll live—science has slowly chipped away at this benchmark. A 2022 study published in the journal Lancet Public Health proved that taking just 6,000 steps every day reduced participants' chance of premature death by 40 percent, as opposed to the participants who walked less (about 3,600 steps per day).

two woman walking outdoors
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But other studies have shown that even low daily step counts have their benefits, especially as we age. For example, a recent study published in the JAMA Network found that walking as few as 3,800 steps a day can cut your risk of dementia. Another study published in the journal BMC Public Health, which tracked the steps of a group of 70-year-olds, revealed that people who took 4,500 daily steps or more had a 59 percent lower risk of developing diabetes.

Ultimately, it's more important to make step goals based on your age—and it's okay if your step count goes down as a result, Amanda Paluch, a physical activity researcher and assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, told Consumer Reports. "It is likely that with each decade, you may require fewer steps per day to create a physiological response that could lead to health benefits," Paluch said.

The best way to figure out how many daily steps to walk is by first identifying how many you typically take in a week with a smartwatch or pedometer on your phone, David R. Bassett, a physical activity researcher and emeritus professor at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, told Consumer Reports. From there, he recommends boosting your daily average between 500 and 1,000 steps. If you can maintain the increase in step count for one week, he suggests adding up to another 1,000 steps. 

If you are in your 60s, continue to boost your step count until you hit the 6,000 to 8,000 range, said Bassett. For those who are younger, keep increasing your steps until you are in the 8,000 to 10,000 range, he said. No matter your age, remember to focus on how your body feels during your walks. "Do what you feel that you are capable of doing," Bassett said. "As long as you're moving, you're reaping some benefits.”

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