While social distancing is in place, stepping outside may be a healthy activity for some cooped-up residents. In fact, a new study finds that the more steps taken, the more one’s health benefits, no matter the intensity.

The investigators, a group of experts in aging, sports medicine, and disease prevention, wanted to see whether accelerometer-based walking routines have a measurable effect on all-cause mortality risk, including cancer and cardiovascular disease. 

Using accelerometers, they tracked steps per day and step intensity in 4,800 individuals ages 40 and older. The more steps a participant took per day, the lower their all-cause mortality risk in the ten-year study period, they found. Step intensity, on the other hand, had no significant impact on mortality; an unexpected result, wrote Pedro Saint-Maurice, Ph.D., from the National Cancer Institute, and colleagues.

Health benefits accrued with step accumulation. Compared with peers who took 4,000 steps a day, participants who took 8,000 steps per day had a 51% lower risk of death. Likewise, participants who took 12,000 steps per day had a 65% lower mortality risk than their 4,000-step peers. 

“[I]t’s good to see further evidence from a large study with a broad sample that the main thing is to get moving for better overall health as we age,” said co-author Eric Shiroma, Ph.D., from the National Institute on Aging.

The findings were published Tuesday in the JAMA Network Open.