April 01, 2020

Rethinking 10,000 steps

You know that getting out for a walk or two every day is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. But how many steps do you really need for improved health? This question has come into new focus recently, with research suggesting that 10,000 daily steps — a commonly cited standard — may not be necessary.

A study in the August 2019 issue of JAMA Internal Medicine found that, among older women, those who got 4,400 steps a day had a 41% reduction in death risk over the four-year duration of the study compared with those who got 2,700 daily steps. That reduced risk was even greater for those who took 7,500 steps — but largely leveled off above that.

Mayo Clinic doctors say the study provides important new evidence that daily walking, even for brief stretches, brings significant health benefits. A good starting point is to find out how many steps a day you walk now as your own baseline. Aim to gradually increase steps to reach one of the benchmarks mentioned above. If you are below 4,400, shoot for that. If you are above 4,400, consider aiming for a new goal of 7,500. You don't need to stop there. Movement is medicine, and there's no downside to getting 10,000 steps every day, or even more.

The 10,000-step goal came about largely due to marketing, not medicine. In the 1960s, Japanese walking clubs were increasingly using pedometers made in Japan. The pedometer's nickname was manpo-kei, which translates to "10,000 steps meter."

Measuring time...