Do you count how many steps you take each day? Do you know why the recommended number is 10.000 steps a day?

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An entire industry has been built around this claim. A person should walk 10.000 steps a day to stay healthy.

There are over 300,000 posts on Instagram with #10000steps or a similar tag

Fitness influencers and trainers motivate their users to walk exactly 10,000 steps a day. Then applications on phones, which measure 10,000 steps as a daily goal, then smartwatches… And a bunch of other things in today’s world revolve around the famous 10.000 steps a day.

There is research that estimates that there are around 500,000,000 devices in the world that measure 10.000 steps.

Who, how, and why decided that we should walk 10.000 steps a day?

People who faithfully adhere to the 10,000-step-a-day rule or stress out when they take fewer steps a day may be surprised to learn that this widely accepted goal is not the result of years of scientific research.

10,000 steps is a completely arbitrary number, originating from a successful Japanese marketing campaign in the mid-60s.
In an attempt to capitalize on the huge popularity of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, the Yamasa company designed the world’s first wearable pedometer. A device called the manpo-kei, which translates to “10,000 step counter.”

A research team from Kyushu University of Health and Welfare began investigating the potential benefits of 10,000 steps. They concluded that the average Japanese person takes between 3,500 and 5,000 steps a day. And that if these people increase the number of daily steps to 10,000, they can reduce their risk of coronary heart disease.

More than 50 years later, the idea that adults need to walk 10.000 steps a day retains its power.

What do the studies say? Are 10.000 steps a day the magic number?

Over the years, many researchers have studied the 10,000 step count to see if it holds weight. The answer is: yes and no.

Although a daily goal of 10,000 steps is not universally appropriate for all ages and physical functions, it is considered a “reasonable target for healthy adults,” according to a 2011 study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.

The World Health Organization, the American Heart Foundation, and the US Department of Health and Human Services have gradually adopted 10,000 steps as a daily activity recommendations.

However, in recent years, the credibility of this number has been increasingly questioned. Most of the scientific studies that have been conducted to examine whether 10,000 steps per day are optimal for health are relatively arbitrary.

They simply compared people who took 10,000 steps a day to those who took far fewer, such as 3,000 or 5,000, and then measured calories burned, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels.

So a study could find that 10,000 steps helps you lose more weight than 5,000 steps, and the media sees that and reports, “Yeah, you should start with 10,000 steps,” but that could be because the study only tested that two numbers. For example, the impact of 8,000 steps was not tested, nor was 12,000.

Catrine Tudor-Locke – Center for Personalized Health Monitoring at the University of Massachusetts Amherst

Not everyone has the same level of activity

For those who are chronically ill, have type 2 diabetes or older people who are used to a sedentary lifestyle, there are now concerns that a quick jump to 10,000 steps a day could have harmful effects.

We know that a sedentary lifestyle is bad, and if you take less than 5,000 steps a day on average, it can lead to weight gain, increase the risk of bone loss, muscle atrophy, becoming diabetic… But at the same time, there seems to be an obsession with the number 10,000 and the question of how many steps is enough, and from a public health point of view, getting people off the couch is more important. The question that should be asked is: how many steps are too few?

How many steps are too few?

Some studies investigating the protective nature of exercise against chronic diseases ranging from heart disease to stroke. And various forms of cancer, such as breast cancer and reproductive organ cancer. Suggest that somewhere between 6,000 and 8,000 steps may be the lower limit to aim for.

Again, we note that this is all an individual matter and that no number should be taken for granted.
However, if you take about 3,000-4,000 steps a day to function normally and add 30 minutes of recommended physical activity to that. You come close to 8,000-10,000 steps. This is the simplest math, based on everyday experience, not research.

Will using a smartwatch improve my health?

Research shows mixed results. Benefits may include increased physical activity and motivation to exercise, reduced anxiety and improved mood, improved glucose tolerance and blood sugar levels.

Although some studies show that counting steps can help control blood pressure levels and reduce body weight. At least in the short term, others have found that this is not the case.

Why is it important to count steps?

Counting steps is primarily a good thing for motivation. It will motivate you and give you a clear and measurable goal. It follows that you will surely improve your strength.

If, on the other hand, you want to enter the world of running and training, don’t just be guided by the number of 10,000 steps, because if it’s that simple, it’s not.

You need to take care of your health care. Have a medical examination. Have a clear plan for when what, and how much you work. As well as defining your expectations.

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