10,000 steps a day won’t keep you fit. Here’s what it will do

It’s no secret that daily exercise is important (it doesn’t matter how much you hate him), and walking is a particularly great form of exercise – it’s low-impact and effective. But is 10,000 steps really the magic number?

Between fitness tracker users, the number 10,000 fluctuates a lot – as in, try to take a total of 10,000 steps (about five miles) every day, including all your normal daily activities. And yes, the little everyday things you do to move more each day matter. For example, choosing to walk to work, park further away or take the stairs matters to your business and it’s great that our technology can help us see that.

But are there any real health benefits of taking 10,000 steps every day? Or it does how do you understand they matter more? What about the other workouts you do that no longer give you steps? Here’s what science and experts have to say.

Exercise isn’t for everyone

Since everyone is different and has a unique lifestyle, activity level and goals, it makes sense that not everyone needs the same amount of exercise every day to be healthy. Part of this depends on each person’s individual goals and health concerns. But, for the average person, is 10,000 steps a day really enough to be considered active and healthy? It can be a big milestone and a starting point, according to Professor Paul Gordon, exercise physiologist and chair of Baylor University’s Department of Health, Human Performance and Recreation.

“The average person will take between 3,000 and 6,000 steps in the day from commuting, shopping, etc. Adding 30 minutes of exercise (about 3,000 steps) that takes us to about 10,000 steps,” said Gordan. He also added that when it comes to walking, more is better for health.

So what if you’re not just walking for exercise (or even tracking your steps), how much exercise do you really need? According to the Department of Health and Human Services, at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (such as brisk walking or swimming) or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (such as running or cardio dance class) is required each week. The DHHS also recommends doing strength-building exercises (such as lifting weights or doing exercises that use your own body weight) twice a week.

Keep in mind that if your goal is to reach other specific fitness or aesthetic goals, you may need to train more than the standard 150 minutes to reach your goal.


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Where did 10,000 steps a day come from?

The 10,000-step recommendation has been mainstream for some time, but have you ever wondered where it originally came from? While you might expect the recommendation to come from a medical source or government health agency, it turns out that’s not the case at all.

In a speech at Michelob Ultra’s Movement fitness industry event, sports medicine physician Dr. Jordan Metzl said the number of 10,000 steps is arbitrary. The number has roots that can trace back to a Japanese walking club that adopted the term as part of a marketing slogan.

A JAMA Internal Medicine article also points out that there is a “limited scientific basis” to support the claim that taking 10,000 steps a day is necessary for health. But the study found that participants who took more steps per day (over a four-year period) had a lower death rate than those who took fewer steps.

The best way to track your daily activity

If you have a Fitbit, Apple watch or other smartwatches, you know these devices can track a lot more of your steps. And while tracking your total steps and distance walked each day is helpful, can other factors be a more effective way to measure your activity? According to Gordan, steps are not the best measure of physical activity. “It does not take into account the intensity of the activity and is not effective for non-weight bearing forms of activity (eg cycling).”

Since the steps cannot account for your intensity level, Gordan also recommends using a heart rate monitor to help you measure exercise intensity. After all, you could technically take 10,000 steps in a day without really increasing your heart rate or holding it for long. “I would encourage engaging in weekly activities that will increase heart rate for a continuous period of time. “He said a balanced exercise routine might seem like doing a activity that increases heart rate (like brisk walking or running) four days a week and go to yoga classes two days a week to work on strength and flexibility.

A comparison of two Apple Watches with example displays.A comparison of two Apple Watches with example displays.

The Apple Watch measures more than just steps – pay attention to how much time you spend each day on the go.

Angela Lang / CNET

Is there a better goal to aim for than 10,000 steps a day?

If 10,000 steps a day now seems like an arbitrary goal, then what are some good goals to work towards when it comes to business? One factor that can make a big difference to your health actually has nothing to do with how many steps you take, but rather how much time you spend sitting. “Studies have shown that sitting for long periods is inherently unhealthy, even if you do a daily activity. So interval activity during the day is very beneficial.”

Mayo Clinic recommends that you aim to break up the time you spend sitting each day with activity, even if you are doing the recommended amount of exercise each day. Sitting too much is associated with a higher risk of metabolic problems and can impact health.

Additionally, a recent study found that people who sat for more than 13.5 hours a day failed to derive some of the health benefits from an hour of exercise, as their overall activity level was so. low compared to the time spent sitting.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as medical or health advice. Always consult a doctor or other qualified health care practitioner with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goal.