Is walking 10,000 steps a day a realistic goal?
Back in the 1960s, the concept of health and fitness for the general public through exercise was becoming increasingly popular. Nowhere more so in Japan, where they were busy preparing to host the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Obesity was becoming a problem, and walking was free and could be carried out with no equipment or fitness training.
At around the same time, a waist-worn pedometer had reached the Japanese market, that could count the steps an individual was making each day. The manufacturers of this pedometer called it Manpo-Kei, which translates to 10,000 steps, apparently because it had a nice ring to it – with literally no scientific basis that this was a good target.
However, the marketing took off. Suddenly, everyone wanted to count their steps, and so the 10,000 target was born. But is there any truth in the fact that this is what we should be aiming for? A research paper published in 2021 thinks not. Sort of.
The authors followed more than 2,000 middle aged people for 11 years and part of the data they collected was their step count. Whilst the researchers point out that exercise is, most definitely, good for us, and that keeping active and walking each day is linked to better health outcomes, it seems that the benefits taper out at a daily 7,000 steps. Those hitting this target were between 50 and 70% less likely to experience premature death. Pretty thought provoking.
They found that those reaching 6,000 steps per day on average had better health outcomes than those reaching 5,000, who themselves achieved better than those reaching 4,000 and so on. But once we reach an average of 7,000 steps per day, the benefits appear to stop there.
Therefore, stressing about the extra 3,000 to take us to 10,000, possibly at the expense of performing other exercise such as resistance training, probably isn’t worth it. But if we’re hitting 10,000 a day and still finding time for other exercise, we’re doing really well and we shouldn’t stop – because being active is paramount.