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Expert Sheds Light On “10,000 Steps” Claim, Reveals How Many Steps We Actually Need To Walk
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Expert Sheds Light On “10,000 Steps” Claim, Reveals How Many Steps We Actually Need To Walk

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“10,000 steps a day” has become synonymous with successful and productive exercise for those who strive to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

However, the five-digit number can be difficult to hit, resulting in many abandoning their efforts altogether or putting their step-counting devices in the drawer.

To learn about the basis and validity of this widely touted piece of advice, Bored Panda consulted with Dr. Jennifer Oberstar, an assistant professor in the University of Minnesota Sports Medicine program.

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Highlights
  • The "10,000 steps a day" claim originated from a 1965 marketing campaign for a step-counting device named Manpo-Kei.
  • Walking 10,000 steps equals about 5 miles and contributes to the weekly 150-minute moderate exercise recommended by the CDC.
  • Increasing steps from 5,000 to 9,000 can yield significant health benefits, explains Dr. Jennifer Oberstar.

Dr. Oberstar explains that the 10,000-steps-a-day theory can be linked to a marketing campaign developed in 1965 for a step-counting device named Manpo-Kei, which translates to “10,000 steps meter.”

It’s commonly believed that people need to walk 10,000 steps per day to maintain a healthy lifestyle

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Image credits: Runnersworld

Image credits: Pexels/ Julia Larson

The campaign by the Japanese company Yamasa Toki was highly popular. As a result, people began associating the figure with a successful workout routine. The number is also the default setting in many fitness trackers.

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As it turns out, we don’t need to check whether our devices have hit that number every day.

Dr. Oberstar says the 10,000 daily steps could be included in the weekly recommended physical activity by the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

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Walking 10,000 steps is the equivalent of walking around 5 miles (8 kilometers), and doing so takes roughly an hour and forty minutes, depending on your stride length, cadence, and height, as per NuffieldHealth. This would count toward the 150 minutes of moderate exercise recommended for people aged 18-64 years.

In its 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, the CDC advises between 150 minutes (2 hours and a half) and 300 minutes (5 hours) of moderate-intensity physical activity a week or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) of vigorous activity weekly and two days of strength training.

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Walking 10,000 steps would count toward the 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week recommended by the CDC, explains Dr. Jennifer Oberstar

Image credits: Pexels/PNW Production

Therefore, we can distribute our time (and steps) as we find it convenient, as long as we exercise for at least 2 hours and 30 minutes a week and focus on muscle-strengthening activities.

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“Older adults over 65 have similar recommendations with the addition of balance,” Dr. Oberstar explained.

According to the CDC, physically active older adults are less likely to experience falls, and if they do fall, they are less likely to be seriously injured. Physical activity can also preserve physical function and mobility.

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Meanwhile, guidelines for school-aged children and adolescents (6-17 years of age) are at least 60 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity daily and three days per week of muscle-strengthening activity.

Walking has been shown to bring countless benefits, such as reducing all-cause mortality, lowering the risk of heart disease and stroke, and lowering the risk of certain diseases like bladder, breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, stomach, and lung cancers, Dr. Oberstar says.

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Furthermore, this type of moderate-intensity activity has been proven to reduce the risks of gestational diabetes during pregnancy and feelings of anxiety and depression.

Therefore, you can distribute your time (and steps) as you find it convenient, as long as you exercise for at least 2 hours and 30 minutes each week

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Image credits: Pexels/sergio carvajal

Instead of being fixated on the magic numbers advertised by fitness products, we should remind ourselves that any form of exercise is better than doing nothing. Additionally, we should challenge ourselves to walk more than we usually do.

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“The focus needs to be on increasing your level of physical activity for health benefits. Increasing from 5,000 to 9,000 steps could yield health benefits for an individual,” the professor highlights.

“Wearing a pedometer or wearable fitness tracker, remembering a watch or phone every day, and using the device all the time may wax and wane with time. However, having a device could assess an individual’s baseline.

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“Adding 5 to 10 minutes of walking to one’s usual exercise routine can assist an individual in improving stamina and increasing physical activity.”

For this, we can walk to work (or get off a stop or two earlier when using public transportation), take the stairs instead of the elevator, and avoid using the bus or subway whenever possible.

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The overall focus needs to be on increasing physical activity to lessen the risk of chronic diseases,” emphasizes Dr. Oberstar

Image credits: Pexels/Daniel Reche

Conversely, those who engage in no physical activity are at higher risk for death from coronary heart disease than people who exercise regularly.

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“Individuals who spend more time in sedentary behavior are at greater risk for all-cause mortality,” the doctor says.

The good news is that we can still achieve substantial health benefits from walking less than 10,000 steps per day.

A 2019 study by Dr. I-Min Lee, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, has demonstrated a 41% reduction in mortality rates among older women who take an average of approximately 4,400 steps per day compared to sedentary individuals who take only 2,700 steps per day. 

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More steps were linked to lower mortality up to 7,500 steps per day.  

The study suggests that the 7,500 figure—25% fewer steps than the common goal of 10,000—is enough for people to reap the benefits of lower mortality.

The overall focus needs to be on increasing physical activity to lessen the risk of chronic diseases,” emphasizes Dr. Oberstar. “Move more, sit less.

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Marina Urman

Marina Urman

Writer, BoredPanda staff

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Marina is a journalist at Bored Panda. Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, she holds a Bachelor of Social Science. In her spare time, you can find her baking sweet treats, reading, or binge-watching a docuseries on Netflix. Her main areas of interest are pop culture, literature, and education.

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Marina Urman

Marina Urman

Writer, BoredPanda staff

Marina is a journalist at Bored Panda. Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, she holds a Bachelor of Social Science. In her spare time, you can find her baking sweet treats, reading, or binge-watching a docuseries on Netflix. Her main areas of interest are pop culture, literature, and education.

Ugnė Lazauskaitė

Ugnė Lazauskaitė

Author, BoredPanda staff

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I am employed as a Visual Editor in the news team. I make sure you have the best pictures near the most interesting text. In general all day I am looking at all you favourite celebrities facies and I am geting payed for it!

Read less »

Ugnė Lazauskaitė

Ugnė Lazauskaitė

Author, BoredPanda staff

I am employed as a Visual Editor in the news team. I make sure you have the best pictures near the most interesting text. In general all day I am looking at all you favourite celebrities facies and I am geting payed for it!

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bensolomon avatar
f-drossaert avatar
Francois
Community Member
2 weeks ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

To be fair the Proclaimers never made any uhm claims regarding the time it would take to walk 500 miles and a 500 miles more. It might take a year to do so.

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tymej007 avatar
Justin Tyme
Community Member
2 weeks ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Now I need to measure the distance from my recliner chair to the refrigerator and divide by my step length to see how many steps I am getting.

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bensolomon avatar
f-drossaert avatar
Francois
Community Member
2 weeks ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

To be fair the Proclaimers never made any uhm claims regarding the time it would take to walk 500 miles and a 500 miles more. It might take a year to do so.

Load More Replies...
tymej007 avatar
Justin Tyme
Community Member
2 weeks ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Now I need to measure the distance from my recliner chair to the refrigerator and divide by my step length to see how many steps I am getting.

Load More Comments
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