The 10,000 steps phenomenon: explained

If you have a fitness tracker or a smartphone app that counts your steps, you may have wondered if 10,000 steps a day is a good goal to aim for. You may have also heard that this number is based on scientific research and that it can improve your health and prevent chronic diseases. But is this true? Where did the 10,000 steps a day recommendation come from? And should you hold yourself to that standard?

The answer to the first question is surprisingly simple: the 10,000 steps a day recommendation was not based on any scientific study, but on a marketing strategy. According to several sources , the origin of this number can be traced back to 1965, when a Japanese company named Yamasa Tokei Keiki launched a pedometer called Manpo-kei, which means "10,000 steps meter" in Japanese. The name was catchy and appealing, and it soon became a popular slogan for the growing walking movement in Japan, which was inspired by the upcoming Tokyo Olympics in 1964. The company claimed that walking 10,000 steps a day would help people stay fit and healthy, but there was no scientific evidence to back up this claim.

That does not mean that walking is not beneficial for your health. On the contrary, walking is one of the easiest and most accessible forms of physical activity, and it has many positive effects on your body and mind. Walking can help you:

- Burn calories and maintain a healthy weight
- Strengthen your muscles and bones
- Improve your cardiovascular fitness and lower your blood pressure
- Reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and some cancers
- Enhance your mood and mental well-being
- Boost your immune system and prevent infections
- Support your brain function and memory

The question then is: how many steps should you walk to enjoy these benefits? The answer depends on several factors, such as your age, health status, fitness level, and personal goals. There is no one-size-fits-all number that applies to everyone. However, some general guidelines can help you set a realistic and achievable target for yourself.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week. This can be achieved by walking briskly for 30 minutes five times a week, which roughly translates to about 7,500 steps per day. However, this is only the minimum recommendation for maintaining basic health. If you want to achieve more benefits or prevent weight gain, you may need to walk more than that.

A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine in 2019 found that older women who walked an average of 4,400 steps per day had a 41% lower risk of dying within the next four years than those who walked only 2,700 steps per day. The risk of dying continued to decrease as the number of steps increased, until it leveled off at around 7,500 steps per day. This suggests that walking more than 7,500 steps per day may not provide additional benefits for mortality, but it may still have other positive effects on health and quality of life.

Another study published in JAMA Network Open in 2020 found that middle-aged adults who walked more than 12,000 steps per day had lower risk factors for heart disease than those who walked less than 4,000 steps per day. This suggests that walking more than 10,000 steps per day may have cardiovascular benefits for some people.

The bottom line is: there is no magic number of steps that guarantees good health. The best number for you depends on your individual situation and preferences. However, some general tips can help you find your optimal range:

- Start by tracking your current average number of steps per day using a pedometer or an app. This will give you a baseline to work from.
- Set a realistic and gradual goal to increase your daily steps by 10% to 20% every week or two until you reach your desired level.
- Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week, which can be achieved by walking briskly for about 30 minutes five times a week or about 7,500 steps per day.
- If you want more benefits or challenges, try to walk more than 10,000 steps per day or increase your intensity by walking faster or uphill.
- Listen to your body and adjust your goal according to how you feel. If you experience any pain or discomfort, reduce your steps or intensity. If you feel bored or unmotivated, change your route or find a walking buddy.
- Remember that any amount of walking is better than none, and that quality is more important than quantity. The most important thing is to enjoy walking and make it a regular part of your lifestyle.




Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published