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Do Those 10,000 Steps Per Day Actually Do Any Good?
Do you find yourself checking your step count throughout the day? It might be on your FitBit, Apple Watch, iPhone or any one of the other devices you strap to your body.
As the hours go by, you take the stairs, walk the extra block, or go to the coffee shop a little farther away. All in the hopes of reaching that magical 10,000 mark!
As this routine goes on, day after day, have you ever stopped to ask yourself, “Why 10,000?”
Probably not. You just do what you’re supposed to do, congratulation yourself when you get there and then get ready to start from step zero when the next day starts.
However, new research is turning everything we know about step counts on its head. But don’t worry. We’re not going to tell you that the number of steps needs to be increased…
In fact, this new research performed at the Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that you could see results at just 4,400 steps!
So what prompted this change in the global understanding of daily steps?
I-Min Lee, professor of epidemiology and lead author of this new study, wanted to know why we are all obsessed with the 10,000 step goal when she began her research.
The answer she found was not what you might expect.
“It turns out the original basis for this 10,000-step guideline was really a marketing strategy. In 1965, a Japanese company was selling pedometers, and they gave it the name Manpo-kei, which in Japanese means, ‘the 10,000-step meter’, with the slogan ‘let’s walk 10,000 steps today,’” says Dr. Lee.
In addition, after speaking with Japanese researchers, Lee believes that the name was chosen and stuck because the Japanese character for 10,000 kind of looks like a man walking!
Regardless of whether it’s the shape of the character, a product name, or a brilliant combination of the two, it worked and we’ve all been trying to live up to that walking man ever since.
But Lee wanted to know if there was a scientific reasons for this, or if it was merely a way to sell products.
How Many Steps Do We Actually Need?
When Lee started researching whether or not 10,000 steps was really necessary she was hoping to answer two specific questions: How many steps a day are associated with lowering the mortality rate? Does stepping intensity level make a difference in mortality when people take the same number of steps?
Dr. Lee studied physical activity and health in older women because this group tends to be less active and health issues become more serious as people age. Participants included 16,741 women between the ages of 62 and 101. Each woman wore a tracking device called as accelerometer during their waking hours from 2011 until 2015.
After compiling and analyzing all of the data, Dr. Lee and her team found that women leading what is known as a sedentary lifestyle were averaging 2,700 steps per day. However, there was a 41% reduction in mortality for individuals that averaged just 4,400 steps per day!
That’s a huge difference in a short distance.
As Dr. Lee and her team continued to analyze the data they found another surprising result. Mortality rates continued to drop until participants reached 7,500 steps per day. At that point the rates leveled off.
This means that anything on top of 7,500 steps is great, but it doesn’t reduce your mortality any further.
It is important to note that Dr. Lee’s study only focused on mortality, not cognitive function or physical conditions. But, if you’re interested in staying healthy to avoid death, this news applies to you!
No Speed Walking Necessary
In addition to the number of steps taken, Dr. Lee also wanted to know if intensity played a role in mortality rates. As it turns out, it does not.
This is great news for anyone who doesn’t derive joy from speed walking. You can lower your mortality rates at whatever speed you feel comfortable.
First and foremost, 10,000 is a big number that can seem daunting. Knowing you can take 25% fewer steps and reach your goal is great motivation.
Plus, you don’t have to do all 4,400 or 7,500 steps all at one time.
If you lead a sedentary lifestyle, 2,700 steps or less, take a few extra steps each hour over the course of the day. You only need to add about 2,000 steps, under a mile, to reap those benefits.
Dr. Lee also points out that using a quantifiable measurement to keep track of this goal is very useful for many people.
Health and exercise guidelines are usually measured by time, which can be hard to keep track of if you’re just moving about during the day. By counting your steps, you can measure your progress and literally count down to the finish line as the day goes.
4 Ways to Get In Your Daily Steps
Some of these you may already know, but think of it as a friendly reminder:
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Instead of choosing the parking spot closest to your destination, just pull in to the first one you see when you enter the parking lot.
- If you ride the bus, give yourself a little extra time and get off one stop early. Then walk to your destination.
- At home, break up your chores. Carry the dinner dishes to the table one at a time for extra trips. Or, instead of weighing yourself down with all the groceries so you only make one trip, carry fewer bags and make two or three trips.
The next time you check your device to see how much farther you need to go, you might be surprised by how far you’ve already come.
If you’re looking to up your step-game even while at home, check out our list of best buy treadmills to see which machine would be the best fit for you and your health needs!
https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2019/05/10000-steps-rule/590785/ What 10,000 Steps Will Really Get You: Amanda Mull; 2019
https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/10000-steps-a-day-or-fewer-2019071117305 10,000 steps a day – or fewer? Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School; 2019