Michael Lim, ReMark's Assistant Director for Health & Wellness is taking a moment to explore the evolution of walking, the benefits gained by increasing your daily step count, and how insurers can get policyholders to get active.
Humans are designed to move
Walking is the most fundamental form of locomotion, tracing back to the early years of human evolution when our ancestors relied on it for survival. And though it remains a necessary activity today, humans are walking less.
As outlined by evolutionary biologist Daniel Lieberman in his book “Exercised: why something we never evolved to do is healthy and rewarding” , the average hunter-gather clocked 6-9 miles (13,000 to 20,000 steps) every day. In comparison, a recent Stanford study found that people today log an average of just 4,960 daily steps.  Far less than our hunter-gather ancestors—and significantly below the 10,000 daily steps recommended by leading health organizations worldwide.
Lower activity levels are proven to negatively impact our long-term health. And many experts are concerned that this trend is evolving into one of the biggest health crises of the 21st century.  An issue that has only worsened with Covid-19, as restrictions and social distancing measures have limited our ability to stay active. 
On a positive note, the pandemic has shown just how beneficial physical activity can be. As shown in a study by Sallis and colleagues , active individuals have a reduced risk of severe Covid-19 outcomes, including hospitalization, ICU admission and death. Beyond the pandemic, physical activity lowers the risk for non-communicable diseases, and is a major modifiable risk factor for overall health.
Stepping your way to a longer life
The misconception exists that for physical activity to be effective, it must be intensive. Walking, the most basic form of exercise, can provide immense benefits when maintained regularly. Several studies have established that increasing your daily step count can help reduce your risk of premature death. 
Recently, Amanda and colleagues  analysed 15 cohort studies conducted globally between 1999 to 2018. Their analysis concluded that taking more steps per day proportionately reduce all-cause mortality risk by 40-53%, with benefits varying by step count and age group:
- For individuals under 60 years old, the greatest reduction occurs at 8,000 steps per day
- Older individuals, over 60 years old, benefited from 6,000-8,000 steps per day
As a low-impact activity, walking is suitable for all ages, regardless of physical or medical conditions. The key is to start stepping. In general, more steps translate to better health, but mortality benefits can be observed at levels below the recommended 10,000 steps per day. A modest increase of just 1,000 steps per day can reduce mortality by up to 12%.6 An impetus for us to increase our daily steps.
Walking: The untapped opportunity
Throughout the pandemic, ReMark’s Global Consumer Study8 has seen policyholders become more willing to let their insurers play an active role in their life. Most specifically, within their health and wellness journey. In response to this growing trend, ReMark works globally with insurers to launch health & wellness initiatives leveraging our Good Life mobile app.
The app is an engagement platform that encourages users to track their fitness and activity goals, including steps, and reduce their ‘biological age’. It’s proven to increase the amount of steps users walk, and improve customer loyalty. Good Life users record twice the global average number of daily steps, and have retention rates 40% higher than standard policyholders.
- Lieberman, D. E. Exercised: Why Something We Never Evolved to Do Is Healthy and Rewarding. (2021).
- Althoff, T. et al. Large-scale physical activity data reveal worldwide activity inequality. Nature 547, 336–339 (2017).
- Blair, S. N. Physical inactivity: the biggest public health problem of the 21st century. Br J Sports Med 43, 1 (2009).
- Tison, G. H. et al. Worldwide Effect of COVID-19 on Physical Activity: A Descriptive Study. Ann Intern Med 173, 767–770 (2020).
- Sallis, R. et al. Physical inactivity is associated with a higher risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes: a study in 48 440 adult patients. Br J Sports Med 55, 1099–1105 (2021).
- Jayedi, A., Gohari, A. & Shab-Bidar, S. Daily Step Count and All-Cause Mortality: A Dose–Response Meta-analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies. Sports Med (2021) doi:10.1007/s40279-021-01536-4.
- Paluch, A. E. et al. Daily steps and all-cause mortality: a meta-analysis of 15 international cohorts. The Lancet Public Health 7, e219–e228 (2022).
- ReMark (20201) ReConnect Life. London. Available at https://cdn.remarkgroup.com/gcs/GCS2021-22-Reconnect-Life_EN.pdf (accessed 30th March 2022).