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Don't Cut Your Steps Per Day

Scary Health Effects of Walking Fewer Steps Per Day

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Updated September 06, 2013

Yamax Digi-Walker Pedometer
Wendy Bumgardner © 2007
What happens if you have been logging 6,000 to 10,000 steps per day on your pedometer and you suddenly cut your steps per day to less than 2,000? A Danish researcher says your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and premature death zooms up -- and it only takes two weeks of reduced activity to produce the bad effects. The results the study by Dr. Rikke Krogh-Madsen, from the Centre of Inflammation and Metabolism in Copenhagen were published as a letter in the March 19, 2008 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Fewer Steps, More Risk Factors

The study used healthy young men in their mid-20s who were not overweight, were non-smokers, and who had no family history of diabetes, medication use or other physical abnormalities. One group normally walked 6,000 steps per day, and a second group normally walked 10,000 steps per day. All were asked to reduce their walking by simple methods such as taking a car for short trips instead of walking or biking, and taking elevators instead of stairs.

After cutting their steps to under 2,000 steps per day, in both groups the amount of insulin circulating in their blood climbed 60% The researchers say this is a sign that the body is no longer efficiently processing energy from food and is increasing insulin to try to process the food energy. This effect was seen with only two weeks of reduced activity.

In the group that normally walked 10,000 steps per day, cutting their steps to under 2,000 produced additional increases in heart disease risk factors. Trigylceride and C-peptide levels increased and they had a 7% gain in abdominal fat without overall weight gain. The researchers were amazed that these healthy young men had impaired metabolisms in only two weeks, without the usual warning sign of weight gain.

Don't Leave the Pedometer at Home!

This research is further evidence that the body needs regular physical activity, even if it is only logging "lifestyle steps," in order to keep the metabolism in good working order. Wearing a pedometer is a good way to remind yourself to add more steps to your day by the simple means the researchers eliminated. Take the stairs. Park further from the door or walk to a further bus stop. Take a walking break at work. Check your pedometer steps often throughout the day to see if you need to add more steps.

How Many Steps Per Day are Enough?

A good starter goal is to log 2,000 more steps per day than you already normally achieve. That is the equivalent of an extra mile per day, or walking steadily for 15 to 30 minutes (depending on your walking speed).

This research study showed that the men walking 6,000 steps per day had ill effects when decreasing to below 2,000 steps per day. If you aren't at the 6,000 steps per day level, make that your goal as your daily minimum requirement.

Should your goal be 10,000 steps per day? While that number was originally given as a goal unsupported by research, the evidence is building that 10,000 steps per day is a good goal. Most people who don't have active jobs need to add in a 30- to 60-minute walk or run to achieve that goal. By making 10,000 steps per day your goal, you will likely get the level of exercise recommended by the CDC and American Heart Association.

Start Walking

Step Counters Pedometer Walking Program: Our free 28-day program guides you through getting an accurate pedometer and using it to motivate yourself to increase daily activity.

Source:

Rikke Krogh-Madsen, M.D., Ph.D. "Metabolic Responses to Reduced Daily Steps in Healthy Nonexercising Men." Journal of the American Medical Association. Vol. 299 No. 11, March 19, 2008.

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