The risk of dying during follow-up dropped by 46% for women in the 5,900-step group compared to the least active group.
The most active group (8,500 steps daily) had 58% lower risk of dying during follow-up. But the benefit appeared to top off around 7,500 steps, the researchers said.
The researchers also found that the intensity of activity did not make a statistically significant difference.
"You can fast or you can slow down. It didn't matter," Lee said.
The study didn't look at how extra physical activity could lower the risk of death since it only found in association, but Lee said that daily physical activity can improve blood pressure, blood sugar processing and cholesterol levels. Regular physical activity has also been linked to better thinking and memory skills and improved quality of life.
"I can't beat the point that physical activity is good for you. Just moving around is so good for your health," Lee said.
That doesn't mean you have to go to the gym. She suggested parking your car farther away, taking stairs, getting up and moving during commercial breaks on TV, playing with your grandkids or walking a pet.
Dr. Traci Marquis-Eydman, an associate professor of medical sciences at Quinnipiac University's School of Medicine in North Haven, Conn. She wasn't involved with the study, but reviewed the findings, and called them encouraging.
"At least in this subset of the population, you don't have to shoot for this number that feels overwhelming. We also saw that intensity didn't matter. If you just stay active, you can reduce your mortality risk, "Marquis-Eydman said. She would have been helpful to see this research in different age groups and in men, too.
Marquis-Eydman said a step is easy to measure with a wearable activity tracker or a counter in your smartphone. She said future versions of physical activity guidelines might have a daily step instead of minutes per day.
Plus, she said, physicians could write an activity prescription for adding 1
The study was published May 29 in JAMA Internal Medicine
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SOURCES: I-Min Lee, MBBS, Sc.D., Professor, medicine, Harvard Medical School, and professor, epidemiology, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston; Traci Marquis-Eydman, M.D., Associate Professor, Medical Sciences, and Medical Student Home Program Director, and Longitudinal Integrated Clerkship Director, Frank H. Netter M.D. School of Medicine, Quinnipiac University, North Haven, Conn .; May 29, 2019, JAMA Internal Medicine
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