I’ll be the first to admit that I try to do it. I even tell people to do it, because really, how bad can it be? But is there anything behind the 10,000-steps-per-day mantra? Probably not.
Recent research has found that the 10,000-steps-per-day idea goes back to 1965 with the marketing of a Japanese pedometer. The product translated to “the 10,000-step meter,” and since then, the idea has just kind of stuck around without any evidence indicating that 10,000 steps per day is indeed a magical number with health benefits.
Plenty of health and wellness information is arbitrary and the message behind it is basically supposed to translate to “do more.” It’s kind of like eating breakfast or drinking eight glasses of water per day. These suggestions simply provide an opportunity to get more nutrients, fluid, and fiber to distribute throughout the day and keep you healthy. Individual variations will always exist, and sometimes measuring is just easier—or at least a solid starting point.
The 10,000-steps-per-day mantra is a measurable way for people to get more activity. Research has shown that women who get around 4,400 have significantly lower mortality rates than those who were the least active. And those going up to 7,500 showed even greater benefits, but any more seemed to succumb to the law of diminishing returns. Sure, you might be a little better off with more than 7,500, but not by much.
Increased activity, even boosting it by 2,500 steps per day, or going for another 15 minutes of cycling, dancing, or gardening, may boost health. After all, there is nothing special about steps, they are just easy to do. If you bike for 30 minutes per day, it’s hard to say what benefit you are getting by hitting 10,000 steps, too.
Just shoot for more movement. If you hate walking through your specific neighborhood, garden in your backyard, or dance in your living room, or drive to another part of town to walk, or go to the community center for a swim. As long as you’re getting more activity, you’ll do good things for your heart, mind, and immune system, and enjoy anti-aging benefits.
Mat Lecompte is a health and wellness journalist. This article was first published on Bel Marra Health.