Do I Need 10,000 Steps Per Day?
There’s a fairly common concept that we all need to “get our steps in” to maintain a basic level of fitness. Fitbits and other wearables, as well as smartphones, keep track of our steps for us so we can try to live a healthy lifestyle. But we don’t just look to count our steps or aim to increase them – we aim for an oddly specific number: 10,000. Most people are familiar with the idea of 10,000 steps being the goal we should all strive to achieve on a daily basis. But where did this number come from?
Where Did 10,000 Steps Come From?
Dr. I-Min Lee, an associate epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, examines the history and validity of the number in a research study. “You might wonder where that 10,000 steps per day came from in the first place. The answer to that question isn’t totally clear.” She later states that the specific number “likely originated as a marketing tool. In 1965, a Japanese business, the Yamasa Clock and Instrument Company, sold a pedometer called Manpo-kei, which means 10,000 steps meter in Japanese.”
So if the 10,000 steps per day number is not accurate, the question then becomes: how many steps per day do you actually need? Lee’s study concluded that, while mortality rates decrease with an increase in daily steps, correlation levels off at around 7,500 steps. They also found that as few as 4,400 steps per day were significantly correlated with lower mortality rates.
There is no evidence showing that getting in 10,000 steps every day is any more beneficial than getting your normal 30 minutes of activity per day. Reaching the 10,000 step milestone, then, is relatively meaningless.
How Many Steps Should I Do Per Day?
Given the conclusions of this study and many others like it, you should aim for about 7,500 steps per day. However, if this is not immediately attainable, you should target to get to a minimum of 4,400 steps per day. If you’re struggling to get to the 4,400 threshold, you may need to consider other ways of building up your endurance before trying to drastically increase your step count. You may even want to start with some simple exercises and workouts that you can do at home.
Keep in mind that all of these steps don’t need to all be done at once, but over the course of the day. This means you can spread your walking out and increase your steps in smaller increments – for example, if you drive somewhere, park a bit farther away from where you’re going to add in some extra steps. Here are some more simple ways to increase your daily step count:
- Stand up and move more throughout the day. Take frequent breaks while working to take a brief walk around the block, or even just around your home or the office.
- If you take public transportation, and you have the time, get off one stop before your usual destination and walk the rest of the way.
- Find enjoyable activities that will increase your steps and overall movement. Doing things you enjoy can make exercising much easier and make your fitness goals more achievable.
- Plan ahead. Finding time in the day to get your steps in is much easier if you plan it out in advance. Map at your day, and find the places where you can easily add in a quick opportunity to add to your step count.
At the end of the day, the goal should be to improve your overall health and wellness. In that sense, any type of movement and physical activity counts! Regarding setting a target for your daily step count, don’t take the 10,000 number too seriously. Your target number should be set on an individual level, as it will vary greatly depending on your age, current fitness level, and other health factors. It’s best to talk with a health professional and a fitness expert to help design the right exercise regimen for your specific needs.
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