The idea of reaching 10,000 steps on a daily basis is daunting for many people. In the US, one count averaged daily steps at 4800. In Australia the average hits around 7500 steps per day. That’s a bit of time on your feet, but still well below the 10,000 steps that gets tossed around a lot.
It bears asking: How much do you risk by not hitting your 10K target?
Less than the publicity would make you believe. As it turns out, there’s no real scientific basis for the recommendation of reaching 10,000 daily steps. Rather, this number likely originated in Japan in the mid-1960s, either as part of a marketing campaign for a pedometer, or based on the name of a pedometer brand. As an aside, it’s a little too convenient for such a nice round number to be the magic number to target for good health. Our bodies don’t often work so neatly!
The number of steps you take every day does have an impact on your overall health. Numerous studies show that the more steps you average on a daily basis, the healthier you’ll be. This suggests you’ll enjoy a longer life span, with a higher quality of life, than if you average fewer daily steps.
Daily step targets
Somewhat frustratingly, there doesn’t seem to be a minimum number you do need in order to achieve health benefits; We just know that the more you do, the better your health will be. As for getting steps just walking around, rather than going for a workout walk? Interestingly, health markers and life expectancy seem to be strongly linked with simply being on your feet more, as a designated workout or not.
In one recent study, the biggest decreases in risk of death occurred when inactive women became more active – even if it was nowhere near the 10,000 mark! Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers looked at the daily step count of about 16,000 older women over the course of a week. They found that in the four years following the study, those with the lowest step counts were also the most likely to die.
This was true even at the relatively low end of the step count spectrum. Women who averaged approximately 4400 daily steps had lower mortality rates than those who took about 2700 steps a day. A higher number of daily steps saw an additional decrease in overall death rates, up through about 7500 steps daily.
So don’t sweat the 10K mark – just get up and get moving!