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    You only need to walk this many steps per week to add 3 years to your life


    Walking 5,000 steps three times per week for two years could add three years to a person’s life expectancy and decrease their healthcare costs by up to 13%, new research shows.

    Published by Vitality and the London School of Economics, “The Vitality Habit Index” looked at the behaviors and habits of one million Vitality program members in the UK and South Africa between the years 2013 and 2023.

    Researchers wanted to ascertain the best ways to form and maintain lifelong healthy habits, as well as analyze the science behind how healthy habits can lead to longer and healthier lives.

    It’s estimated by the World Health Organization that 27.5% of adults and 81% of adolescents are physically inactive. Wesley J/peopleimages.com – stock.adobe.com
    Walking 5,000 steps three times per week for two years could add three years to a person’s life expectancy and decrease their healthcare costs by up to 13%, new research shows. Monkey Business – stock.adobe.com

    “Healthy habits can profoundly extend the quality and length of life,” Adrian Gore, Founder of Discovery Vitality, said in a statement.

    “Our data shows the impact is not only significant but applies across ages, risk factors, and health statuses — maintaining a small amount of physical activity has lasting health impacts. Given the role of behavior in health risk globally, a better understanding of the mechanisms of habits can be a powerful way to improve individual health — and to evolve our healthcare systems to prioritize preventive health.”

    Not only does The Vitality Health Index show the lifestyle changes people can make for a healthier life, but it also shows the impact that these changes at the individual level can have on global healthcare systems.

    It’s estimated by the World Health Organization that 27.5% of adults and 81% of adolescents are physically inactive, and if inactivity levels remain this low, new cases of preventable disease, such as type 2 diabetes, will end up costing health systems $27 billion each year.

    According to Vitality, not getting enough physical activity is associated with 5 million premature deaths every year globally, and one in five worldwide deaths are associated with poor diets — with 1.5 billion people expected to be classified as obese by 2035.

    Small changes for a healthier lifestyle had major positive impacts on all age groups, but it was extremely significant for people aged 65 and older, with a 52% reduction in mortality risk after maintaining a habit of 7,500 steps three or more times per week.

    Those aged between 45 and 65 saw a 38% reduction in mortality risk, while the total population saw a 27% reduction.

    Small changes for a healthier lifestyle had major positive impacts on all age groups, but it was extremely significant for people aged 65 and older. Lisa F. Young – stock.adobe.com

    The research revealed that 7,500 steps per day on average led to the bulk of reduction in common-cause mortality, and moving beyond this “sweet spot” showed additional incremental health improvements.

    Across all age groups, those who sustained a habit of physical activity three times per week for more than two years can add between 2.5 years (for men) and three years (for women) to life expectancy.

    “The findings of this study are a clear call to action for policymakers to promote prevention in public health and build on the power of healthy habits to improve individual and collective health outcomes,” Joan Costa-Font, Professor at the London School of Economics, said. 

    “Successful habit-based interventions can lengthen life expectancy, entail considerable savings for public health services, improve productivity, and help address the significant long-term challenges posed by mental health, social isolation, and non-communicable diseases such as cancer and type 2 diabetes.”

    When analyzing the impact of physical activity habits on the risks of developing type 2 diabetes, those who sustained 10,000 steps three times a week for three years reduced their risk by up to 41%, while those who did this four or more times per week reduced risk by 57%.

    The research recognized three rules for creating robust habits in the process:

    1. Start slow and don’t be too ambitious. Starting with low- to moderate-intensity exercise at low frequency will likely keep the habit going 1.5 times longer than those who start with high-intensity workouts.
    2. Use “habit laddering” and set a target from your baseline. Set your target based on your already existing health habits. For example, if you are inactive, start with 2,500 steps three to five times a week to mark the “first step on the ladder.”
    3. Focus on consistency then intensity. Start with continuing the activity just to form the habit and increase the intensity once it’s been consistent for between six and eight weeks.

    “This analysis offers meaningful learnings for the US and other countries,” Maia Surmava, CEO of Vitality US, said. “The implications from a market and policy perspective are significant and provide insight into the impact small behavior changes can have on people’s health and wellbeing. Given the healthcare cost crisis in the US, following these three steps for creating robust habits could lead to a notable change in both health and healthcare costs.”




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