Is 10,000 Steps a Day Necessary?

Walking is a great cardiovascular activity. When done consistently and for a good amount of time, walking may offer multiple health benefits, including weight loss, more energy and improved brain function. It may also help lessen your risk of heart disease, diabetes and joint pain.

If you are into fitness, you may have heard of the trend that walking for 10,000 steps a day should be the goal to stay fit and healthy. In fact, most fitness trackers and wearable devices are programmed with a daily goal of 10,000 steps. Whether you find this too much or you need more insights about this concept, our aim is to help you understand if it’s really necessary.

What Does Research Say?

Based on previous studies, people in the U.S. walk an average of 4,000 to 5,000 steps daily. The truth is, there’s no scientific evidence backing the 10,000 claim. The origin of that goal is unclear, but some research says it may have started when a Japanese company began marketing a pedometer called Manpo-kei in 1965. It translates to "10,000 steps meter" in Japanese.

To dig deeper on this concept, a Harvard professor and her colleagues studied 16,741 women (with an average age of 72) between 2011 and 2015 to find out “how many steps a day were associated with longer life” and “if intensity matters.” Each woman wore a device for seven days to track her steps.

The study concluded that among older women, taking 4,400 steps daily was associated with a lower risk of death as compared to taking about 2,700 steps per day which is the usual count for sedentary women. The risk of death continuously decreased with more steps taken, but stabilized at around 7,500 steps per day which was less than the 10,000-step goal.

Are 10,000 Steps a Day Necessary?

This goal may suit a certain segment of the population, but it may be difficult to achieve for others. According to the Pacific Physical Activity Guidelines for Adults by the World Health Organization, this goal generally focuses on the number of steps taken rather than the intensity. Therefore, it is essential to point out that the 10,000-step recommendation is just one way of achieving your fitness goals. Any type of movement counts, and if you want to commit to 10,000 steps daily, you may do so, but it’s not necessary.

How Many Steps are Enough?

Taking 4,400 steps a day, according to the Harvard doctor, should be very doable for most women. This means if you are sedentary, you may add about 2,000 steps a day, which is approximately a mile.

You may also measure your steps depending on your goals. If you need:

  • To strengthen your heart, walk for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week to lower your risk of heart disease by about 19%.
  • To ease joint pain, walk for about five to six miles a week to help reduce pain and help prevent arthritis.
  • To boost immune function, walking at a moderate pace for 30 to 45 minutes a day may help.
  • To improve your mood, opt for about 30 minutes of brisk walking or other moderate intensity exercise three times a week.
  • To burn calories, you may use a chart to compute the amount of calories you can burn based on your weight and the distance and intensity of the walk.

Final Thoughts

As mentioned, any type of moving counts. It doesn’t matter if you go beyond or less than 10,000 steps as long as you’re taking the extra mile to take care of your body. The goal is to stay healthy, and you can do that through a holistic approach – with regular exercise, a healthy diet, enough sleep and a positive lifestyle.

If you need to consult a doctor about your health or a pre-existing condition, don’t hesitate to seek care. We’re here for you every step of the way. Your safe care is our #1 priority.

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Science Daily
World Health Organization
Harvard Health Publishing

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