The Vitality Habit Index: Walking 5,000 Steps per Week Adds 3 Years to Life Expectancy, Decreases Healthcare Costs

Walking 5,000 steps three times per week for two years could potentially add three years to a person’s life expectancy and reduce their healthcare costs by up to 13%, according to new research conducted by Vitality and the London School of Economics. The study, titled “The Vitality Habit Index,” examined the habits and behaviors of one million members of the Vitality program in the UK and South Africa between 2013 and 2023.

The findings of this research are a strong indication of the profound impact that healthy habits can have on a person’s quality and length of life. Adrian Gore, the founder of Discovery Vitality, emphasized that maintaining even a small amount of physical activity can have lasting health benefits across different age groups and health statuses. Understanding the mechanisms of habits is crucial for improving individual and public health, as well as evolving healthcare systems to prioritize preventive health.

The significance of these findings goes beyond personal health. The World Health Organization estimates that a significant percentage of adults and adolescents are physically inactive. If inactivity levels remain as they are, preventable diseases like type 2 diabetes will cost health systems billions of dollars each year. Additionally, insufficient physical activity and poor diets contribute to millions of premature deaths globally.

The research also highlights the importance of making small changes for a healthier lifestyle. These changes can have a major positive impact on all age groups, with older individuals experiencing a significant reduction in mortality risk. For example, individuals aged 65 and older can reduce their mortality risk by 52% by maintaining a habit of 7,500 steps three or more times per week.

The study suggests that 7,500 steps per day, on average, lead to the most significant reduction in common-cause mortality. However, going beyond this “sweet spot” can result in additional incremental health improvements. Across all age groups, individuals who sustain a habit of physical activity three times per week for more than two years can potentially add between 2.5 to 3 years to their life expectancy.

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The implications of this research are a clear call to action for policymakers to prioritize prevention in public health. The findings demonstrate the potential savings for public health services, improved productivity, and addressing long-term challenges such as mental health, social isolation, and non-communicable diseases like cancer and type 2 diabetes.

Based on the key points of this research, it is evident that promoting physical activity and healthy habits is crucial for individual and collective health outcomes. It is recommended that policymakers focus on creating habit-based interventions and developing strategies to encourage consistent physical activity. By following three key steps for creating robust habits- starting slow, using “habit laddering,” and prioritizing consistency before intensity- individuals can significantly improve their health and reduce healthcare costs.

Looking ahead, future trends related to these themes are likely to involve advancements in technology and digital health solutions

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