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10,000 Steps Too Many

How many steps do you need to take each day to be healthy?

If you answered 10,000, you’re in good company. And you’re wrong. Welcome to the club.

Turns out the 10,000 step per day standard isn’t based on science, it’s based on marketing. Excellent marketing if you measure by sheer impact given the vast majority of people “know” 10,000 steps is the magic number to reach.

The 10,000 step standard began in Japan in the 1960’s with what is believed to be the first wearable step counter. The counter was named manpo-ke, which translates to “10,000 step meter”. The company that launched manpo-ke felt that 10,000 steps was a good number--indicative of an active, healthy lifestyle. That simple assumption brought us, some 50+ years later, to 10,000 steps per day being the ultimate goal. Today’s science, however, begs to differ.

Recent research, like this report published by JAMA , measured whether an increased number of steps per day were associated with lower mortality rates among older women. Their findings showed that 7,500 steps per day would do the trick. Additionally the report revealed that sedentary women averaged only 2,700 steps per day but those who averaged 4,400 daily steps had a 41% reduction in mortality. Mortality rates continued to improve with an increased number of steps per day and then leveled off at 7,500 steps per day.

Like all studies this one has its limitations but I invite you to look at the big takeaway: 10,000 steps per day isn’t based in science.

So what’s a person to do with their newfound knowledge? Well I am a big fan of going back to basics--an overarching approach to creating health that’s doable, easy, and that you can start today.

First, move more throughout the day. For those of us who work at a desk, sitting disease is real and deadly. Break the destructive cycle of sitting by taking movement breaks throughout your day. This is mission critical to living a happy, healthy, long life.

Second, get your walk on but measure time, not steps. The exercise recommendations from the U.S. Surgeon General are 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week. That’s a daily walk of just over 20 minutes per day. Grab a 20 minute walk on your lunch break and you’ll be meeting those requirements.

Creating health doesn’t have to be grueling or punishing or restrictive or shaming. It needs to be doable actions incorporated into our daily lives that become the healthy habits we live and thrive by. And if you feel reluctant to give up your 10,000 steps, then don’t! But know that however many steps you fit into moving more and taking a 20 minute walk will be just fine. Measure that and see how it feels!

If you’d like to Move More and Get Your Walk On in a community of Walking Women from around the world, join the 1MWW movement today. We can’t wait to walk with you.