Is the goal of 12,000 steps per day sufficient for improving body composition and metabolic syndrome? The necessity of combining exercise intensity: a randomized controlled trial

BMC Public Health. 2019 Sep 3;19(1):1215. doi: 10.1186/s12889-019-7554-y.


Background: To investigate the differences in body composition and metabolic syndrome (MS) under a daily 12,000-step strategy with or without moderate-intensity walking exercise in college students with obesity.

Methods: Thirty-two adults with obesity (mean (s.d.) age: 19.72 (0.80) years; height: 165.38 (3.99) cm; wt: 83.31 (4.66) kg; body mass index: 30.38 (0.83) kg m- 2) were recruited and randomly assigned to the walking step goal group (WSG; achieving 12,000 steps per day), walking exercise group (WEG; achieving 12,000 steps per day, including 3 days per week on which walking at a step rate of over 103 steps min- 1 was required), or control group (CG; maintaining a free-living life style). Each participant's accumulated daily steps from daily activities and walking exercises were monitored using a smartwatch for 8 weeks. The variables of body composition and MS were measured before and after intervention.

Results: Average daily steps over 8 weeks did not significantly differ between the WSG and WEG (11,677.67 (480.24) vs. 12,131.90 (527.14) steps per day, respectively, P > .05). Although the CG and WSG showed no improvement in body composition, the WEG exhibited significant improvements in terms of hip circumference and visceral fat area (VFA) (∆ - 2.28 (3.27) cm and ∆ - 13.11 (9.83) cm2, respectively, P < .05); high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), fasting glucose (FG), and triglycerides (TG) (∆ 16.36 (8.39), ∆ - 2.53 (3.73), and ∆ - 10.52 (36.26) mg dL- 1, respectively, P < .05). The WSG exhibited improvements only in HDL-C (∆ 14.24 (16.13) mg dL- 1, P < .05).

Conclusion: The combination of walking exercise program and daily step goal is a more time efficient strategy in improving body composition and MS than simply establishing a daily step goal. Furthermore, this strategy may also include a potential reduction effect on the risk factors of cardiovascular diseases.

Trial registration: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry, number ACTR N12618001237279 (Retrospectively registered).

Keywords: Cardiovascular disease risk factor; Daily step goal; Moderate intensity; Step rate; Walking.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Body Composition / physiology*
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Goals
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metabolic Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Obesity / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Walking / physiology*
  • Walking / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult