Why 10,000 Steps a Day?


Friends, coworkers, family members – how many of them have told you about their new fitness goal of walking 10,000 steps a day? These days, most step counters or fitness apps suggest by default that you set your daily goal to at least 10,000 steps. However, opinions on whether or not reaching 10,000 steps per day is actually effective, or even helpful, are mixed. So, should you care about the number of steps you take in a day? The answer is: sort of.

The origin of this figure actually dates back to the 1960s, when Japan hosted the Olympics. As CNN recently reported, the public’s focus on exercise was heightened during the games and it was then that researchers determined that men should burn at least 2,000 calories a week, which breaks down to 300 calories a day. This goal can be achieved by walking approximately (you guessed it) 10,000 steps.

Fitness apps and trackers enjoy this somewhat arbitrary number because it’s easy to advertise, and their marketing campaigns have obviously worked. The 10,000 steps phenomenon is now becoming ubiquitous, but the benefits to getting out and walking more is often overshadowed by this goal.

The average American walks only 5,000 steps a day (Business Insider), and the most sedentary group walks much less than that. Living a sedentary lifestyle puts you at risk for obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, joint damage, and many other problems (Mayo Clinic). Provided this information, it can be assumed that increasing your step count would be a great step in the right direction for people who aren’t getting the recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week. However, walking is obviously not the only way to exercise, and if you do strength training or ride a bike every day, you might be in great shape despite having a low step count.

In addition to getting more exercise, there is another compelling reason to start being more aware of your steps, and it has to do with sitting. If you are trying to increase your step count by walking more, you will most likely sit less, which could save your life. One study showed that people who sit in front of the TV for over four hours have a 125% greater risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than those who watch TV for less than 2 hours a day, and a 50% higher risk of death from any cause (Mayo Clinic). Researchers are starting to believe that sitting can be deadly, so keeping track of your steps could be a great incentive to get moving.

While 10,000 steps a day might not be the right amount for you, there are huge benefits to trying to live a healthier, more active lifestyle. Our Foothills Sports Medicine experts aim to keep you active and doing the things that you love. For more advice and information about reaching your daily fitness goals, check out our blog!


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