First of all, congratulations and HUGE THANKS to all of the more than 3000 participants in this 3rd annual 100 Miles in March challenge. As we approach the halfway point of the month, some of you are actually more than halfway to 100 Miles! If you’re not moving quite that quickly, no worries – everyone’s pace, health, and schedule (not to mention weather conditions) are a little bit different.
If you’re taking on this challenge while living through or beyond prostate cancer, take heart….literally. The benefits of exercise for patients with prostate cancer are well-documented, from improved cardiovascular fitness to lower risk of progression and recurrence. Check out this article on how exercise makes the body less hospitable to prostate cancer and this interview with PCF-funded researcher Christina Dieli-Conwright, PhD, MPH on practical tips for getting started.
And if you’re joining the challenge as a friend, family member, caregiver, or simply want to help support prostate cancer research, you’re racking up the health benefits as well. It seems like every day there’s another story in the news about reasons to exercise. Here’s a quick look at some recent research on the impact of exercise on health promotion and disease prevention:
Is 10,000 steps per day really the “magic number”? What does that get you, anyway? In 2022, researchers pooled 15 studies totaling more 47,000 people to look at the relationship between daily step count and risk of death. Step counts ranged from about 3,500 per day in the lowest 25% (quartile), to nearly 11,000 steps per day in the top quartile of walkers. A greater number steps per day was linked to lower risk of death. Compared with people who walked the least (quartile 1), the risk of death was 40% lower in quartile 2, 45% lower in quartile 3, and 53% in quartile 4. However, the benefits of increasing steps per day plateaued at 6,000-8,000 steps in people aged 60 and older, and at 8,000-10,000 steps for people younger than 60.
A study of more than 78,000 adults in the UK asked participants to wear accelerometers for one week, collected their daily step and walking speed data, and followed them for an average of 7 years. Researchers observed an inverse “dose-response” relationship between daily step count and death from cardiovascular disease (CVD), meaning that as step count went UP, the chance of dying from CVD went DOWN. No additional benefits were seen in walking more than about 10,000 steps per day. Increasing daily steps were also linked to decreased diagnosis of CVD, not just death from CVD.
Other Forms of Cancer
This same study of UK adults also looked at diagnosis of and death from 13 forms of cancer that have been linked to low physical activity: bladder, breast, colon, endometrial, esophageal adenocarcinoma, gastric cardia, head and neck, kidney, liver, lung, myeloid leukemia, myeloma, and rectal cancer. A similar inverse dose-response pattern was seen, with the additional benefit topping out at about 10,000 steps per day.
Depression is the most common mental health disorder in the US, and has been increasing in recent years, especially among younger adults. Research continues to support exercise as a protective measure. Even low-to-moderate levels of physical activity as measured by step count were linked to a lower risk of depression among middle-aged adults. A recent “umbrella review” of more than 1000 research papers on exercise and mental health, incorporating more than 100,000 participants, reported that physical activity can improve symptoms of depression, anxiety and distress across a wide range of adult populations. Moderate- and high-intensity exercise was more effective than lower-intensity physical activity. This aligns with the common recommendation that any exercise is good….but if you can notch up your effort level, you’re likely to accrue more benefits.
The All of Us research program is collecting multiple types of health-related information over several years from more than 1 million Americans who have consented to participate in the study. To examine the relationship between daily step count and the development of multiple chronic diseases, including diabetes, researchers used data from over 6,000 participants who had provided both their Fitbit data and their electronic health records. Fitbit data was logged for a median of 4 years, which translated into over 50 billion total steps across all participants! For diabetes, participants who walked the most had an approximately 22% lower risk of developing the condition vs those who logged the least steps. Read the study for more about step counts and risks of other health conditions.
Keep up the great work, and walk on!