Now that the 10,000 steps a day myth has officially been busted as the benchmark for boosting your fitness (TL;DR: there’s not a lot of solid science behind that figure—and honestly, it depends on what being “fit” means to you), many of us are left wondering: How many steps a day do we really need take to be healthy? Well, when it comes to living longer, we have a better idea, thanks to a recent study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, which looked at how power walking for longevity can be beneficial.
The massive study followed 47,000 participants over the course of seven years and sought to explore how power walking influenced mortality rates using accelerometers, devices that measure changes in velocity, to track physical activity. Of the folks studied, 53 percent were women, and among other findings, the study revealed one major insight into how much you need to power walk to reap the longevity benefits.
Drum roll, please: The research indicated that if everyone were to start power walking for an extra 10 minutes a day, we could prevent more than 111,000 deaths every year. Meaning, in theory, if you’re not walking at all right now, just 10 minutes is enough to start extending your lifespan. And if you’re already spending time strolling, you’d need to add an extra 10 minutes at a faster clip to reap the rewards.
In addition, increasing moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity by 10, 20, or 30 minutes per day was associated with a 6.9 percent, 13 percent, and 16.9 percent decrease in the number of deaths per year, respectively. This suggests that even those short, half-hour lunch break walks can go the distance when it comes to your health and well-being.
As a refresher, as Eli Friedman, MD, medical director of sports cardiology at Baptist Health’s Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute, previously told Well+Good: “Power walking is similar to regular walking, but done with more intensity and at a faster pace. In other words, the number of strides per minute will increase and there may be more use of the upper body, specifically the arms, to propel the body forward. One might find that their breathing is harder and their heart rate is faster with power walking.”
For those of you still looking for an exact step count, though, here’s the deal: “For adults 60 and over, between 6,000 to 8,000 steps a day had the greatest effect in decreasing mortality, and for adults less than 60, the range was 8,000 to 10,000 steps per day,” writes functional medicine doctor Mark Hyman, MD, in an Instagram post based on the research. For context, every mile consists of about 2,250 steps, so you’d need to walk about three miles to hit the mark. (10,000 steps, meanwhile, is about five miles.)
So those for whom longevity is a primary fitness goal would ideally be walking their way up to that many daily steps to increase their lifespan as much as possible. But even if not, every minute, quite literally counts, which is why adding an extra 10 to your walk—as long as they’re vigorous—is still a great way to pay it forward to your future self.