Many health apps and influencers preach 10,000 steps a day as the golden number for better health. However, a recent study conducted by researchers at Harvard, the University of Tokyo, the University of Tennessee, the National Institute on Aging and the National Cancer Institute suggests that as few as 4,400 steps a day can be beneficial.
The 10,000 steps a day claim comes from a pedometer, launched in 1965, that was named the “10,000 Step Meter.” This product and its subsequent marketing set a false step standard, without any science to support it.
The new study tracked volunteers who wore accelerometers for ten hours a day, 4 to 7 days a week, for 4 years. What they found was that even walking 4,400 steps a day was associated with a 41% reduction in mortality. Further, 7,500 steps was associated with a 65% reduction.
Doctors and researchers agree that 10,000 steps a day is still an admirable goal and will have definitive health benefits, including weight loss, a strong heart, reduced hypertension, improved sleep and less fatigue.
Rather than aiming for a certain number of steps, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends getting 150 to 300 minutes of moderate exercise each week.
All of the research concludes that more steps are better than fewer. Dr. I-Min Lee, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, advises “…try to get 2,000 steps more than you already do.”
For some, a goal of 10,000 steps a day, combined with the assistance of a device like a FitBit or Garmin watch, can be a great motivator to begin leading a more active lifestyle. Tracking steps is an easy way to create a daily fitness routine and build good fitness goals.
Of course, the best way to get started is by, literally, taking the first step. If you need more help getting started, talk to your healthcare provider or a fitness coach.