Judson Haims: More steps per day is equated to longevity and better health

Judson Haims
Special to The Aspen Times

In many ways, COVID-19 is transforming the things we do and how we live. If someone were to have told me pre-COVID that trying to buy a bike, boat, camping supplies, or any outdoor equipment would be almost impossible here in Colorado, and nationwide, I would have most likely made some dismissive and derogatory comment. Guess I’m eating my words now.

For many mountain towns and businesses, COVID-19 has equated to a boon in business. Bike shops are for the most part sold out, many athletic stores have experienced supply chain delays, and even REI and Cabela’s have empty shelves. In many ways, COVID-19 has incited a trend in enjoying the outdoors.

The Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) recently provided information stating, “Americans took up new activities in significant numbers in April, May and June of 2020. Among the biggest gainers were running, cycling and hiking.” For those who were on the trails and enjoying parks and open spaces last year, it was abundantly apparent that a cooped-up population yearned to be outside.

Go figure, it took a pandemic to shock people into a new and different mindset. The pandemic created screen fatigue, which was the perfect impetus to leverage people to get outside.

The desire to get out is not just for younger generations. Over the past couple of months, I have had a number of clients ask our office to research and purchase them pedometers — step-tracking devices. One client, a 93-year-old, said they were motivated to track steps after reading this article in the Journal of the American Medical Association: Association of Daily Step Count and Step Intensity With Mortality Among US Adults.

The following synopsis provided by Providence Health reviews a study conducted by Harvard Health in August of last year. Should you want to read the whole article, the name of the article is “Walking: Your steps to health.”

“Researchers looked at a group of nearly 17,000 women with an average age of 72. The women all wore trackers to count their steps and the pace of their activity as they went about their usual day. Participants were divided into groups based on the average number of steps they reported: 2,700, 4,400, 5,900, and 8,500. During the 4.3-year follow up period, here’s what researchers found:

• The women with the least amount of activity averaged about 2,700 steps a day. They were found to have the highest risk of death.

• Women who completed 4,400 steps a day were around 40% less likely to die during the follow up period than the women walking 2,700 steps or less a day.

• Risk of dying for women in the 5,900-step group fell by 46% compared with the less active participants.

• Women in the 8,500-step group experienced 58% lower risk of dying but that benefit seemed to taper off at an average 7,500 steps a day. There was no added longevity when extra additional steps were completed.

• The intensity level and speed of the steps had no effect on the results. Slow, steady walking offered similar results to a more aggressive pace.”

The Harvard Study and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey detailed in JAMA provide sound evidence that as people increase their average number of steps per day, the risk of mortality decreased. Even if you get outside for a leisurely stroll up and down the block a couple of times a day, walking has proven to lower mortality rates.

It’s OK to take baby steps when starting to measure your steps per day. For beginners, a slow stroll between 50 and 60 steps per minute is a good start. This would be similar to the pace of walking while shopping for groceries. Getting more aggressive at 80 steps per minute would mean that you would be walking at a medium pace. Brisk pace walking starts at about 100 steps per minute.

Data from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) state that the average steps per day for older adults can range from 1,200-8,800 steps/day. Using this as a benchmark from which to improve from may be a good start.

Set realistic goals for yourself and stay motivated. When you start, you may not feel very motivated, but if you commit you just might to feel better and better your overall health more that you may anticipate.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Aspen, Basalt, and Carbondale. He is an advocate for our elderly and is available to answer questions. His contact information is or 970-328-5526.