How many steps a day does it take to prevent hip bone loss as we age?
You might have heard the common suggestion that we strive for 10,000 steps a day to enhance overall health. Looking specifically at bone health, however, the daily step recommendation looks a bit different — and the news is not good for thin women.
Researchers found that for thin women to prevent hip bone loss as they age, the recommended 10,000 steps a day had to be increased to 18,568 for women who were lighter than average (114 lbs or less). Women of average weight (143 lbs or more), however, could maintain bone with many fewer steps per day. The estimate was about 5,000 steps a day for a woman of average weight. The reason? The lighter you are, the less impact you deliver to your bones with each step.
So what’s a thin woman to do? Now, I suppose you could try to walk faster for a greater impact, but only two out of 66 thin women in the study were able to increase their speed enough to reduce the step requirement to 10,000 steps a day.
I think the other option suggested by researchers — to artificially increase body weight during walking — makes more sense. Maybe because I am already doing it! Every morning when I take my dog for a walk, I use my weighted vest. It is simple to use and builds bone mass and increases muscle strength. Here’s a photo of me in my vest walking my dog Hardy!
In fact, a weighted vest’s long-term use has been shown to be as effective as drug therapy in building bone mass. And by the way, and if you don’t like the weighted vest idea, stay tuned. I am thinking a lot about how to prevent bone loss in thin women…more ideas will be forthcoming.
Boyer, KA et al., Maintaining femoral bone density in adults: how many steps per day are enough? Osteoporosis International, February 12, 2011.
I’m Dr. Susan Brown. I am a nutritionist, medical anthropologist, writer, and speaker. Get my free weekly newsletter here.