Walking is fantastic exercise, and it’s one of the most accessible low-impact workouts for most people. New research suggests walking an extra 1,000 steps a day can extend your lifespan. The findings presented at the Epidemiology and Prevention Lifestyle and Metabolic Health Conference found that each additional 1,000 steps taken by the participants was linked to a 28% decrease in all-cause mortality. For most individuals 1,000 steps is the equivalent of between a quarter mile and a half mile at a leisurely pace, and more like a half a mile to one mile at a faster jogging or running pace. The study found that getting about 4,500 steps a day total—about two or three miles—is ideal for reducing your risk of early death, but they emphasized the main goal should be adding 1,000 extra steps to whatever is normal for you.
How Does Walking Benefit Health?
Walking benefits health in several different ways. It provides light to moderate cardio exercise which improves cardiovascular fitness, leads to better sleep quality, helps to control blood sugar, boosts mood, reduces symptoms of depression, improves lower body strength and balance and helps to reduce fall risk.
One thousand steps might sound like a lot, but it doesn’t have to be all at once. The study found benefits both for those who went on long uninterrupted sessions and those who walked in short spurts. Walking an extra 1,000 steps here and there throughout your day—even if it’s getting up once an hour to walk for a couple minutes—can get you to 1,000.
Ways to Add a Few Extra Steps a Day
Adding a few extra steps here and there can add up to 1,000 faster than you think. For example, parking a bit farther between your car and the store can give you a few extra steps. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator is another easy way to sneak a few extra steps in on an errand.
The study authors recommend a few ways to add in extra steps from home: remind yourself to pace a few steps once an hour, garden, clean your house and walk in place while you watch TV. The study authors emphasize that the benefits are present even if you don’t push yourself hard enough to sweat—easy, small changes can give you just as much of a boost over time.
If you aren’t sure how many steps you’ve taken, consider using your phone, an app or a fitness tracker to measure your daily step count. This way you can get an objective look at what 1,000 extra steps would actually look like for you.
Another recent finding in research on walking and health is that varying the pace for a short time can boost health benefits even more. Speeding up to a faster pace for 30 second intervals —followed by a more moderate recovery pace—can increase heart rate, providing even greater cardio benefits. This type of abrupt change in pace can boost the strength of your heart and lower your blood pressure. Try doing three to five faster intervals on your walk to increase the intensity and health benefits.