Taking 10,000 steps a day appears to be such a common goal among fitness tracking devices that many believe it’s based on research. It was originally a suggestion of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The idea is that walking 10,000 steps per day can help keep blood pressure low and prevent cardiovascular disease–but it isn’t supported by scientific evidence.
But today’s best science suggests we do not need to take 10,000 steps a day, which is about five miles, for the sake of our health or longevity.
A new study by Dr. Lee and her colleagues found that women in their 70s who managed as few as 4,400 steps a day reduced their risk of premature death by about 40 percent, compared to women completing 2,700 or fewer steps a day. The risks for early death continued to drop among the women walking more than 5,000 steps a day, but benefits plateaued at about 7,500 daily steps.
A recent study of almost 5,000 middle-aged men and women found that 10,000 steps a day are not a requirement for longevity. In that study, people who walked for about 8,000 steps a day were half as likely to die prematurely from heart disease or any other cause as those who accumulated 4,000 steps a day. The statistical benefits of additional steps were slight, meaning it did not hurt people to amass more daily steps up to and beyond the 10k mark. But the extra steps did not provide much additional protection against dying young either.
Most of us don’t walk anywhere close to 10,000 steps a day (and probably never will). According to recent estimates, most adults in America, Canada, and other Western nations average fewer than 5,000 steps a day.
A study in Ghent, Belgium, provided local citizens with pedometers and encouraged them to walk for at least 10,000 steps a day for a year. Of the 660 men and women who completed the study, about 8 percent reached the 10,000-step daily goal by the end. But in a follow-up study four years later, almost no one was still striding that much. Most had slipped back to their baseline, taking about the same number of steps now as at the study’s start.
How much daily walking constitutes good exercise was a long-awaited question for a precise answer. A well-rounded emphatic answer is now available—10,000 steps. The benefits of exercise are many, including improved heart health, weight loss, and more.
Exercising helps stave off osteoporosis. Women who have had recent menopause and do not exercise regularly are at risk of developing osteoporosis. The same applies to men over 60 years old who spend a lot of time sitting in their chairs reading papers or watching TV. Osteoporosis is a condition where there is a low level of bone mass due to excessive loss of bone mass, leading to an increase in risks of fractures later on in life.
You may want to try adding intensity by stepping up your pace, taking more steps at a brisk walking or running pace, or adding intervals such as hills or stairs. Try setting aside time for dedicated moderate- to vigorous-intensity exercise, whether that is walking, resistance training, or some other form of exercise that you enjoy. Many fitness trackers and smartwatches detect whether or not your movement is enough to be considered moderate or vigorous exercise.
To increase steps in a day, start by measuring your current steps. From there, you can set goals for gradually increasing your steps. Moving in manageable chunks toward your goal is more effective than trying to do everything at once. Plus, there is less chance of getting injured or feeling overwhelmed along the way.