HEALTH: More Steps For Good Health

The Medical Journal of Australia has published research showing that walking more steps per day can significantly reduce the amount of time you will spend in hospital.

The Centre for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Newcastle identified that an increase in step count from 4500 to 8800 steps per day meant 0.36 fewer hospital bed-days per person per year.

The participants in the study wore pedometers (step counters) for a week during the years 2005-2007. Their hospital data up to 31 March 2015 was then analysed ( a mean follow-up time of 8.2 years). In total, data for 2110 people, all aged 55 or more, were available for analysis.

There was a statistically significant reduction in the number of hospital bed-days associated with higher step counts with the estimated number of bed-days per year of follow-up decreasing by 9% for each 1000-step increase in daily step count. Interestingly, disease-specific reductions were significant for cancer and diabetes, but not for cardiovascular disease.

Even when analysis was restricted to hospital admissions beyond the first 2 years of follow-up (to control for the possibility that illness causes people to be less active), the difference was still 0.29 bed-days per person per year.

The extra steps equated to walking for about 3 kilometres. Also significant was the finding that moving from 3000 to 5000 steps per day is of greater benefit than moving from 8000 to 10 000 steps, clearly indicating that the biggest benefits are to be gained by the less active.

The authors concluded that: “Health interventions and urban design features that encourage walking could have a substantial effect on the need for hospital care, and should be features of health policy.”

Experts in the field have also noted that wearable activity monitors, such as Fitbit, Garmin and the Apple Watch, had the potential to enhance the likelihood of maintaining increases in physical activity in the longer term. For health practitioners with sedentary patients looking for assistance with becoming more active, a wearable activity monitor would be a good first step.”

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