I have written numerous times that I consider walking to be the Cinderella of the exercise world because there is so little appreciation of it. Possibly, also, because it is a lovely quiet exercise that doesn’t take a lot of exertion despite engaging many of the body’s muscles as well as actually bearing your total body weight. There is an entire Page of posts I have written on walking – Why you should walk more.
Possibly one of the most widely spread ideas about walking is that a person should try to take 10,000 steps a day. What about that?
Well, Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health has something to say about that.
Do I really need to take 10,000 steps a day?
“You’ve probably heard that moving 10,000 steps a day is a healthy goal. Some apps and pedometers have 10,000 steps earmarked, so that when you reach it, a congratulations screen dings or vibrates. Not a simple goal as many of us sit more than stand, thanks to driving cars, sitting at office desks, and reclining in chairs at home; in fact the average number of daily steps an American takes is closer to 4,800.  It may surprise you that the benchmark number of 10,000 is not actually based on science but was created as a marketing tactic in the 1960s by a company making pedometers.
“So is there any science to support stepping it up? Generally, research finds that more steps are better but even a lower amount can achieve health benefits. A study following 4,840 men and women 40 years of age and older for about 10 years found that those taking at least 8,000 steps daily had a 51% lower death rate from all causes compared with those taking 4,000 steps or fewer.  A large cohort of more than 16,000 older American women (mean age 72 years) from the Women’s Health Study followed for 4 years found that those taking 4,400 steps a day had a 41% lower death rate compared with those taking about 2,700 steps a day.  Death rates continued to drop in relation to taking more steps up to 7,500 daily, but steps beyond that did not show additional benefit.
“Although these studies confirm that taking more steps is good, the exact amount to see a health benefit will vary among individuals. The guideline from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to “move more and sit less throughout the day; some physical activity is better than none” remains an appropriate goal for everyone.  There’s nothing wrong with aiming for 10,000 steps or even higher, except when it becomes so daunting that you lose motivation, or you feel discouraged that a lesser amount is not good enough. Rather than feeling chained to a specific step count, listen to your body, challenge it, and feel good about what it can accomplish.”