Health & Fitness | June 3, 2019 10:03 am

There’s No Real Science Behind the 10,000 Steps-Per-Day Goal

The idea, however, that being more active can lead to a longer, healthier life, stands

Steps per day
Do you really need to take 10,000 steps every day? (Getty)
Getty Images/Maskot

The prevalence of pedometers via wearable technology has introduced yet another daily goal for us to reach as healthy individuals — taking 10,000 steps each day, about five miles of walking.

But this figure didn’t come from scientific research or cardiologists or a medical study of any kind, instead, it was introduced to our lexicon through a marketing ploy.

“It turns out the original basis for this 10,000-step guideline was really a marketing strategy,” I-Min Lee, a professor of epidemiology at the Harvard University T. H. Chan School of Public Health and the author of a new study on this very issue told The Atlantic. “In 1965, a Japanese company was selling pedometers, and they gave it a name that, in Japanese, means ‘the 10,000-step meter.’”

The Japanese character for 10,000 looks, apparently, like a man taking a stroll.

Lee’s research found that when older women took more steps per day — even just 2,000 — and increased to 4,400, they were able to lower their mortality rate compared to their sedentary peers. This benefit, however, eventually levels out at 7,500 steps per day.

The principle, that being more active can mean a longer, healthier life, is sound, according to experts, but what that means will vary significantly from person to person based on their individual restrictions and health concerns.

“A big challenge is that the public and the media want cut-and-dried, black-and-white messages and findings, and science just doesn’t operate that way,” said Virginia Chang, a physician and sociologist at the NYU College of Global Public Health. “People just want to know what they should do.”

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