Feb 7th 2021

Do we really need to walk 10,000 steps a day?

by Lindsay Bottoms

 

Lindsay Bottoms, Reader in Exercise and Health Physiology, University of Hertfordshire

 

When it comes to being fit and healthy, we’re often reminded to aim to walk 10,000 steps per day. This can be a frustrating target to achieve, especially when we’re busy with work and other commitments. Most of us know by now that 10,000 steps is recommended everywhere as a target to achieve – and yet where did this number actually come from?

The 10,000 steps a day target seems to have come about from a trade name pedometer sold in 1965 by Yamasa Clock in Japan. The device was called “Manpo-kei”, which translates to “10,000 steps meter”. This was a marketing tool for the device and has seemed to have stuck across the world as the daily step target. It’s even included in daily activity targets by popular smartwatches, such as Fitbit.

Research has since investigated the 10,000 steps a day target. The fact that some studies have shown this step target improves heart health, mental health, and even lowers diabetes risk, may, to some extent, explain why we have stuck with this arbitrary number.

In ancient Rome, distances were actually measured by counting steps. In fact, the word “mile” was derived from the Latin phrase mila passum, which means 1,000 paces – about 2,000 steps. It’s suggested the average person walks about 100 steps per minute – which would mean it would take a little under 30 minutes for the average person to walk a mile. So in order for someone to reach the 10,000 step goal, they would need to walk between four and five miles a day (around two hours of activity).

But while some research has shown health benefits at 10,000 steps, recent research from Harvard Medical School has shown that, on average, approximately 4,400 steps a day is enough to significantly lower the risk of death in women. This was when compared to only walking around 2,700 steps daily. The more steps people walked, the lower their risk of dying was, before levelling off at around 7,500 steps a day. No additional benefits were seen with more steps. Although it’s uncertain whether similar results would be seen in men, it’s one example of how moving a little bit more daily can improve health and lower risk of death.

Person wearing a smartwatch tying their shoe.
Benefits were seen even before 10,000 steps. dolphfyn/ Shutterstock

While the World Health Organization recommends adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week (or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity), research also shows that even low-intensity exercise can improve your health – though moderate-intensity exercise improves it to a greater extent. This means your steps throughout the day can contribute to your 150 minutes of target activity.

Activity can also help mitigate the harms of sitting down for long periods of time. Research has shown that people who sat for eight or more hours every day had a 59% increased risk of death compared to those sitting less than four hours per day. However, they also found that if people did 60-75 minutes per day of moderate intensity physical activity, this seemed to eliminate this increased risk of death. Therefore, potentially undertaking brisk walking could help mitigate the negative effects of sitting for too long.

Recent research at the University of Texas has also demonstrated that if you’re walking fewer than 5,000 steps a day, your body is less able to metabolise fat the following day. A buildup of fat in the body can also increase a person’s likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes. This is further supported by previous research which shows people who walked less than 4,000 steps a day could not reverse this decreased fat metabolism.

Increasing physical activity such as your step count reduces your risk of death by improving your health, including by reducing risk of developing chronic illnesses such as dementia, and certain cancers. In some cases it helps improve health conditions such as type 2 diabetes. Exercise can also help us improve and maintain our immune system. However, based on the current research out there, it appears that getting 10,000 steps a day isn’t essential for health benefits – half that target appears to be beneficial.

If you want to increase how many steps you get daily, or simply want to move more, one easy way to do that is to increase your current step count by about 2,000 steps a day. Other easy ways to move more daily include walking to work if possible, or taking part of an online exercise programme if you’re working from home. Meeting with friends for a walk – rather than in a cafe or pub – can also be useful. And given that even small amounts of physical activity positively impact your health, taking regular breaks to move around if you’re working at a desk all day will help to easily get more physical activity.

Lindsay Bottoms, Reader in Exercise and Health Physiology, University of Hertfordshire

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Browse articles by author

More Essays

Jun 17th 2021
EXTRACT: "Confronting our complex history and ultimately embracing a more equitable, balanced, and humble culture may be a tall order in these fractious times. But that makes it even more imperative that we fully reckon with who we are and who we are capable of becoming."
Jun 11th 2021
EXTARCT: "A further health benefit of hiking is that it’s classed as “green exercise”. This refers to the added health benefit that doing physical activity in nature has on us. Research shows that not only can green exercise decrease blood pressure, it also benefits mental wellbeing by improving mood and reducing depression to a greater extent than exercising indoors can."
Jun 10th 2021
EXTRACT: "“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress,” Mahatma Gandhi said, “can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” If we apply that test to the world as a whole, how much moral progress have we made over the past two millennia? ...... That question is suggested by The Golden Ass, arguably the world’s earliest surviving novel, written around 170 CE, when Emperor Marcus Aurelius ruled the Roman Empire. Apuleius, the author, was an African philosopher and writer, born in what is now the Algerian city of M’Daourouch."
Jun 4th 2021
EXTRACT: "Research we’ve done, which looked at 37 adults with type 2 diabetes, found that over two weeks, prolonged sitting was associated with high blood sugar levels. But we also found that when people stood up or walked around between periods of sitting, they had lower blood sugar levels. Other studies have also had similar results."
May 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "Paul Van Doren's legacy lies in a famous company, and in his advice to young entrepreneurs to get their hands dirty, and to know what goes into making what they are selling."
May 19th 2021
EXTRACT: "May 7th marked three hundred and ten years since the philosopher David Hume was born. He is chiefly remembered as the most original and destructive of the early modern empiricists, following John Locke and George Berkeley." .... " Shocking as it may (and should) sound, Hume is implying nothing less than that the next time you turn the key in your car ignition, you are as justified to expect the engine will start as you are in believing it will turn into a pumpkin. For there is a radical contingency that pervades all our experience. We could wake up tomorrow to a world that looks and behaves very differently to the one we are in now. Matters of fact are dependent on experience and can never be known a priori — they are purely contingent, and could always turn out different than what we expect."
May 1st 2021
EXTRACT: " The sad reality is that the Mizrahim (Jews of Middle Eastern and North African descent) were discriminated against from the day of Israel’s inception, whose Ashkenazi (European Jewish) leaders viewed them as intellectually inferior, “backward,” and “too Arab,” and treated them as such, largely because the Ashkenazim agenda was to maintain their upper-class status while controlling the levers of power, which remain prevalent to this day." ..... " The greatest heartbreaking outcome is that for yet another generation of Israelis, growing up in these debilitating conditions has a direct effect on their cognitive development. A 2015 study published in Nature Neuroscience found that “family income is significantly correlated with children’s brain size…increases in income were associated with the greatest increases in brain surface area among the poorest children.” "
Apr 25th 2021
EXTRACT: "We all owe Farah Nabulsi an enormous debt of gratitude. In a short 24-minute film, The Present, she has exposed the oppressive indecency of the Israeli occupation while telling the deeply moving story of a Palestinian family. What is especially exciting is that after winning awards at a number of international film festivals​, Ms. Nabulsi has been nominated for an Academy Award for this remarkable work of art. " 
Apr 25th 2021
EXTRACT: "When I crashed to the floor of my home in Bordeaux recently after two months of Covid-19 dizziness, I was annoyed. The next day I collapsed again. Now I was worried. What I didn’t know was that my brain was sloshing around inside my skull, causing a mild concussion. Nor did I know that I was in for a whole new world of weird and wonderful hallucinations."
Apr 13th 2021
EXTRACT: "Overall, our review has found that there isn’t evidence to back up the claims that veganism is good for your heart. But that is partly because there are few studies ....... But veganism may have other health benefits. Vegans have been found to have a healthier weight and lower blood glucose levels than those who consume meat and dairy. They are also less likely to develop cancer, high blood pressure and diabetes. "
Apr 8th 2021
EXTRACT: "Pollock’s universe, the universe of Mural, cannot be said to be a rational universe. Nor is it simply devoid of all sense. It is not a purely imaginary world, although in it everything is in a constant state of flux. Mural invokes one of the oldest questions of philosophy, a question going back to the Pre-Socratic philosophers Parmenides and Heraclitus – namely, whether the nature of Reality constitutes unchanging permanence or constant movement and flux. For Pollock, the only thing that is truly unchanging is change itself. The only certainty is that all is uncertain."
Apr 8th 2021
EXTRACT: "Many present day politicians appear to have psychopathic and narcissistic traits too. It’s easy to spot such leaders, because they are always authoritarian, following hardline policies. They try to subvert democracy, to reduce the freedom of the press and clamp down on dissent. They are obsessed with national prestige, and often persecute minority groups. And they are always corrupt and lacking in moral principles."
Apr 6th 2021
EXTRACT: "This has led some to claim that not just half, but perhaps nearly all advertising money is wasted, at least online. There are similar results outside of commerce. One review of field experiments in political campaigning argued “the best estimate of the effects of campaign contact and advertising on Americans’ candidates choices in general elections is zero”. Zero!"
Mar 30th 2021
EXTRACT: "The Father is an extraordinary film, from Florian Zeller’s 2012 play entitled Le Père and directed by Zeller. I’m here to tell you why it is a ‘must see’." EDITOR'S NOTE: The official trailer is attached to the review.
Mar 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "Picasso was 26 in 1907, when he completed the Demoiselles; de Kooning was 48 in 1952, when he finished Woman I.  The difference in their ages was not an accident, for studies of hundreds of painters have revealed a striking regularity - the conceptual painters who preconceive their paintings, from Raphael to Warhol, consistently make their greatest contributions earlier in their careers than experimental painters, from Rembrandt to Pollock, who paint directly, without preparatory studies."
Mar 26th 2021
EXTRACT: "Mental toughness levels are influenced by many different factors. While genetics are partly responsible, a person’s environment is also relevant. For example, both positive experiences while you’re young and mental toughness training programmes have been found to make people mentally tougher."
Mar 20th 2021

The city of Homs has been ravaged by war, leaving millions of people homeless an

Mar 20th 2021
EXTRACT: "There are two main rival models of ethics: one is based on rights, the other on duties. The rights-based model, which traces its philosophical origins to the work of John Locke in the 17th century, starts from the assumption that individuals have rights ....... According to this approach, duties are related to rights, but only in a subordinate role. My right to health implies a duty on my country to provide some healthcare services, to the best of its abilities. This is arguably the dominant interpretation when philosophers talk about rights, including human rights." ........ "Your right to get sick, or to risk getting sick, could imply a duty on others to look after you during your illness." ..... "The pre-eminence of rights in our moral compass has vindicated unacceptable levels of selfishness. It is imperative to undertake a fundamental duty not to get sick, and to do everything in our means to avoid causing others to get sick. Morally speaking, duties should come first and should not be subordinated to rights." ..... "Putting duties before rights is not a new, revolutionary idea. In fact it is one of the oldest rules in the book of ethics. Primum non nocere, or first do no harm, is the core principle in the Hippocratic Oath historically taken by doctors, widely attributed to the ancient Greek philosopher and physician Hippocrates. It is also a fundamental principle in the moral philosophy of the Roman statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero, who in De Officiis (On Duties) argues that the first task of justice is to prevent men and women from causing harm to others."
Mar 18th 2021
EXTRACT: "Several studies have recently compared the difference between antibodies produced straight after a coronavirus infection and those that can be detected six months later. The findings have been both impressive and reassuring. Although there are fewer coronavirus-specific antibodies detectable in the blood six months after infection, the antibodies that remain have undergone significant changes. …….. the “mature” antibodies were better at recognising the variants."
Mar 15th 2021
EXTRACT: "Like Shakespeare, Goya sees evil as something existing in itself – indeed, the horror of evil arises precisely from its excess. It overflows and refuses to be contained by or integrated into our categories of reason or comprehension. By its very nature, evil refuses to remain within prescribed bounds – to remain fixed, say, within an economy where evil is counterbalanced by good. Evil is always excess of evil." ....... "Nowhere is this more evident than in war. Goya offers us a profound and sustained meditation on the nature of war ........ The image of a Napoleonic soldier gazing indifferently on a man who has been summarily hanged, probably by his own belt, expresses the tragedy of war – its dehumanization of both war’s victims and victors."