WASHINGTON - Walking 8,000 steps -- about four miles (6.4 kilometers) -- one or two days a week may significantly reduce the risk of early death, according to a study released on Tuesday.
While regular exercise is known to lower mortality risk, the study published in the journal JAMA Network Open looked at the health benefits of walking intensively only a few days a week.
For the study, researchers from Kyoto University and the University of California, Los Angeles analyzed data from 3,100 American adults.
They found that those who walked 8,000 steps or more one or two days a week were 14.9 percent less likely to die over a 10-year period than those who never reached that mark.
For those who walked 8,000 steps or more three to seven days a week, the mortality risk was even lower -- 16.5 percent.
The health benefits of walking 8,000 steps or more one or two days a week appeared higher for participants aged 65 years and older.
"The number of days per week taking 8,000 steps or more was associated with a lower risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality," the researchers said.
"These findings suggest that individuals may receive substantial health benefits by walking just a couple of days a week."
For the study, the researchers used daily step counts from the 3,100 participants in 2005 and 2006 and examined their mortality data 10 years later.
Among the participants, 632 took 8,000 steps or more zero days a week, 532 took 8,000 steps or more one to two days a week and 1,937 took 8,000 or more steps three to seven days a week.
The average American walks 3,000-4,000 steps a day, according to the Mayo Clinic, which says walking for regular activity can reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and depression.