Taking 10,000 steps every day has, over the years, come to be considered the marker for good health. As such, people consciously try to achieve this magic number on their fitness trackers to stay hale and hearty and also ensure longevity. But, does walking these many steps help prevent chronic conditions like obesity, and diabetes? New research attempted to answer that question, and also enumerated the total number of steps that one needs to take to prevent chronic obesity.
Published in the journal Nature, the study — Association of step counts over time with the risk of chronic disease that used electronic health records data from the All of Us Research Program — mentioned that taking 8,600 steps a day will help prevent weight gain. It added that adults who are already overweight can walk 11,000 steps a day to halve their chances of becoming obese.
For the study, researchers looked at over 6,000 people for four years. The analysis found that walking can also help prevent other conditions like depression, diabetes, and hypertension.
The findings suggested that the relation of step counts with disease risk persisted for diabetes, GERD, and sleep apnea even when adjusting for step intensity. Step intensity was also significantly associated with these outcomes.
“Obesity is a major risk factor (amongst all other risks factors) which cause heart diseases, diabetes, and even cancer,” said Dr Anil Bhoraskar, senior diabetologist, SL Raheja Hospital, Mahim and Secretary, Diabetic Association of India (Scientific Section). “Whatever you eat is converted into energy and is utilised by the body. Excessive calories get converted into fat. Young people need 1,600 calories while young children need 2,000 calories for growth,” he said.
Dr Gaurav Jain, senior consultant, internal medicine, Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital agreed and added that the number of calories one burns depends on various factors, including one’s age, weight, intensity, and distance. “You burn calories whenever you move. Remember, that to lose weight you must burn more calories than you consume. It can also reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and some cancers, relieve stress and improve mood. Sedentary (inactive) lifestyles have the opposite effect,” Dr Jain told indianexpress.com.
While the study suggested a different number, Dr Jain recommends aiming for “10,000 steps every day”.
“Set a baseline for how many steps you will take per day, and then increase by 1,000 each week until you reach your target. Step it up again once you’ve reached 10,000 steps per day. You should be able to increase the pace after a few weeks. A study published in Diabetes Care in February 2013 discovered that spurts (interval walking) helped regulate blood sugar levels in persons with type 2 diabetes better than continuous moderate exercise,” Dr Jain noted.