It has been known for many years that taking about 10,000 steps a day helps to maintain physical fitness. And yet this statement does not come from the scientific world, but from the world of marketing. In other words, this bar was set completely arbitrarily.
In an article published on July 6, 2021, the New York Times recalled the story behind 10,000 steps. After the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo, the Japanese watchmaker tried to capitalize on the event. The company came up with the idea to produce and sell a pedometer, the name of which in Japanese resembles a walking person. Moreover, the word in question means “10,000 pedometer”. The famous 10,000 steps have become a benchmark and have been used for more than half a century.
You don’t have to do so much
Ai-Min Lee is a professor of epidemiology at Harvard (USA). She conducted a study suggesting a 40% reduction in the risk of premature death in women aged 70 who take at least 4,400 steps every day. With more than 5,000 steps, the risk is further reduced. On the other hand, the same work showed that it was not very useful for women to exceed the 7,500 daily steps mark. Therefore, for the author of the study, the goal of 7000 to 8000 steps seems more than sufficient.
Another, more extensive study conducted last year involving almost 5,000 middle-aged men and women of various nationalities also showed that 10,000 steps a day is not a prerequisite for longevity. In this study, people who walked about 8,000 steps a day were half as likely to die prematurely from heart disease or any other cause as those who took 4,000 steps a day. The statistical benefits of the extra steps were small, which meant that it didn’t hurt people to accumulate more daily steps, up to the 10,000-step mark and above. But the additional steps did not provide much additional protection from death to the young.
In fact, in any case, few of us achieve this goal of 10,000 steps. According to recent estimates, the majority of the adult population on average takes less than 5,000 steps a day.
And if we reach the goal of 10,000 steps, our feat will be short-lived. A well-known study conducted in Ghent, Belgium, provided pedometers to local residents in 2005 and encouraged them to take at least 10,000 steps a day for a year. Of the 660 men and women who completed the study, about 8 percent had reached the daily goal of 10,000 steps by the end. But in a follow-up study conducted four years later, almost no one was still moving that much. Most of them returned to the initial level, taking about the same number of steps as at the beginning of the study.