Does it really take 10,000 steps to keep you healthy?

Monday, September 17, 2018

If you’ve jumped onboard the fitness tracker fad, you probably know all about the 10,000-step rule.

Your Fitbit, Apple Watch or another wearable device probably comes pre-set to cajole you into taking 10,000 steps — a number endorsed by the World Health Organization, the American Heart Foundation, and Health and Human Services as a good goal for better health.

So who lead the team of researchers who used scientific techniques to establish the magic 10,000-step goal?

Sorry to disappoint, but it was some Japanese advertising executive in the mid-1960s, according to a story (http://bit.ly/2xpjAfL) by David Cox in The Guardian.

It seems Yamasa Tokei Keiki had a new product that could actually count the number of steps you took in a day. It was called the manpo-kei, which translates to “10,000 step meter.”

After the Japanese discovered the lack of science behind the goal, they did some real research and found that the average Japanese resident took 3,500 to 5,000 steps a day, and increasing that to 10000 was indeed associated with a reduced risk of coronary artery disease, measured by blood pressure and glucose levels.

While the study did find 10,000 steps healthier than 5,000, they didn’t study 8,000, for example, or 12,000. Researchers are attempting to rectify that shortcoming now, to determine whether 15,000 or 18,000 steps would be even better than 10,000.

If you’ve tried hitting 10,000 steps, you probably know how much time it can take, and how unlikely it would be for you to hit 15,000 steps.

You might be happy to know that a study is underway to determine whether 6,000 steps or 7,500 steps might be nearly as beneficial.

Other scientists are exploring intensity and cadence, or frequency of the steps you do take.

One thing nearly all health experts agree on is that some activity is better than none, and 30 minutes per day of moderate exercise — equivalent to about 7,500 steps — is an appropriate goal.

So is the 10,000-step obsession bad? Only if you let it discourage you from exercising at all.

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