If you never get any "exercise" but log a good number of steps per day, is it helping maintain your health? A study of non-exercising people in Hong Kong found that those who logged more steps per day were less likely to have hypertension, cancer, stroke, depressive symptoms and other health problems.
The study looked only at people who said they had done zero moderate-intensity exercise and it also excluded those who were logging over 20,000 steps per day. They wore an accelerometer that logged both steps and intensity of activity. On average, the participants logged 8147 steps per day,† 20.4 minutes of moderate-intensity exertion and 188.6 minutes of light exertion. Those who logged more steps, vs. more moderate intensity exertion, were less likely to have the health problems measured.
This study doesn't show any cause or effect. I'm not surprised that people with fewer health problems were more likely to be more active, even if they didn't engage in purposeful exercise. On the other hand, we are seeing study after study saying that† time spent sitting increases health risks. It may be that these people are showing the good health effects of sitting less and moving more in their daily lives. And it shows that aiming for 10,000 steps per day is still a good goal, even if you don't get the recommended amount of 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity per day.
Photo © Wendy Bumgardner
Source: Lee, Paul H.,¬† Nan, Hairong,Yu, Ying-Ying, McDowell, Ian, Leung, Gabriel M., Lam, T.H. "For non-exercising people, the number of steps walked is more strongly associated with health than time spent walking." Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport 1440-2440 doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2012.10.005