I bet you’ve heard that 10,000 steps is the magic number for good health, the future and that winning lottery ticket… it’s been advertised everywhere so much that I started counting my steps in my head when I forgot my handy counter!

I’m going to take a wild guess and say you, like me, had no idea that the 10,000-steps figure had no basis in science but actually came from an old ad campaign for a pedometer.

We do need to keep moving, don’t get me wrong. As the Washington Post reports, the average US adult spends more than six hours a day sitting, (https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/the-big-numberthe-average-us-adult-sits-65-hours-a-day-for-teens-its-even-more/2019/04/26/7c29e4c2-676a-11e9-a1b6-b29b90efa879_story.html), and working out later isn’t enough to counteract the negative effects. Nevertheless, taking 10,000 steps doesn’t appear to be necessary to ward off the effects of not moving for hours everyday, and that lengthy recommendation can be a dissuading roadblock for some people.

Where the magic number came from

The idea behind walking for 10,000 steps per day comes from an 1965 ad campaign by the Yamasa Clock and Instrument Company to promote their new pedometer at the time. Companies in the US later adopted the same figure, which is why you see it everywhere now.

What you do need

Researchers don’t yet have a firmly established number of steps that you should aim for, but studies have been carried out exploring the matter. A recent study in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal shed some light on this area when it comes to women (https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/2734709). In the study, researchers found that women aged between 62 and 101–the average age was 72–who took 4,363 steps per day were less 41 percent likely to die over the next four years than women who only took around 2,718 steps. This percentage climbed to 46 percent for those who took 5,905 steps and to 58 percent for those stepping 8,442 times each day.

Researchers did find, however, that there was a “Goldilocks zone,” or an area where benefits leveled off. When the results were examined further, researchers realized that the benefits tended to max out at around 7,500 steps each day.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with aiming for 10,000 steps each day; in general, the more you move, the better off you are. But if you find yourself discouraged because you can’t reach that “magic” number, research is indicating you should still aim for the stars!

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