Lower Step Counts Benefit Older Adults’ Health

Regardless of age, most of us are trying our best to move more, sit less, eat a healthy diet and manage stress levels.  But all the step-counting and activity tracking can be stress-inducing when we fall short of the arbitrary 10,000-step goal marketers created to help sell early pedometers developed in Japan in the 1960s.  In actuality, new evidence shows that peak step goals differ depending on age, and for those over 60, the most benefits appear to be between 6,000 and 8,000 steps. 

According to a recent Scientific American Exercise article, because of the room for error in counting steps, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults get at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate weekly activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous activity each week.  After a decade of consistently reaching these goals, studies show adults can expect to gain an extra year and a half of life.  

Because older adults expend more energy in walking due to less efficiency, they require fewer steps to reap the same benefits as younger people.  And for those who have been sedentary, adding even a few thousand steps each day can yield significant benefits – the least active adults have the most to gain by moving more even if they don’t reach a 10,000 or even a 6,000 step goal.  Walking at a brisk pace may have less to offer older adults than walking a longer distance to help boost health and longevity.  

The Takeaway? 

Even if your pace is somewhat slow, and you don’t come close to reaching a 10,000-step goal, there are real benefits to walking daily and moving more in general.  Over time, your distance and speed of walking may increase, helping to further improve health by controlling blood pressure and weight and maintaining mobility and independence. 

Read more about the role step counts play in improving the health of older adults by following this link to NIH MedlinePlus Magazine.