Should we really take 10,000 steps a day?

Anyone with a fitness tracker knows that 10,000 steps a day is said to be the most healthy amount.

This magic number of steps has been linked to a wide range of health benefits, such as weight loss and lower risks of cancer, dementia, and heart disease. Because of an exercise routine called the Hot Girl Walk, walking 10,000 steps has even become popular on TikTok.

But where did they get this number? The real story might surprise you.

It has nothing to do with research or science.

Tom Yates, a professor at the University of Leicester in the UK who studies physical activity and sedentary behavior, told the Daily Mail, "There was no evidence for it to begin with."

Just before the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, there was a lot of talk about fitness in Japan, and many businesses tried to make money off of it.

Advert for the Manpo-Kei pedometer, 1964 - Anyone who has a fitness tracker knows 10,000 steps per day is touted as the pinnacle of health.
A 1964 ad for the Manpo-Kei pedometer.

Yamasa came up with a way to sell a pedometer called the Manpo-Kei, which means "10,000 steps meter" in Japanese. Some people even think that the company chose this name because the Japanese character for 10,000,, looks like a man walking.

The number wasn't chosen for any reason other than that it was round, easy to remember, and looked nice. The company didn't have any scientific evidence to back it up; they just wanted to sell their product. Unknowingly, they changed the fitness industry for years to come.

Many studies have been done to see if people really need to walk 10,000 steps a day to stay healthy, and it has been shown that this is a good goal. But until recently, no research had been done on the effects of anything between 5,000 and 10,000 steps.

One major study that came out in March disproved the 10,000-step goal. It said that between 6,000 and 8,000 steps a day is enough, and that anything more than 8,000 doesn't really help your health.

Sporty woman working out by running up urban stairs and monitoring heart rate on smartwatch
Whether or not people really need to walk 10,000 steps per day to maintain a healthy lifestyle has been the subject of many studies.
Getty Images

Another study that came out recently suggested that how fast someone walks might be more important than how many steps they take. Experts in Denmark and Australia said that if you walk quickly, you might not need to take 10,000 steps a day.

"People don't usually think about the speed of their steps," said Emmanuel Stamatakis, a public health expert and professor at the University of Sydney and the study's lead author. "This is because step count is easy to understand and a lot of people use fitness trackers and apps."

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