It is ubiquitous. 10,000 steps. I don’t really even need to describe the definition, we know what the reference is.
While it has been scientifically proven that by increasing your step count you will definitely improve your overall health, companies like Fitbit, garmin, iHealth and even Apple and Google all advocate for at least 10k steps as part of their fitness tracking initiatives.
We are lead to believe that there is something magical about such a specific walking metric. So, what is so special about the 10,000 step mark?
The earliest mention of the 10k mark that I could find was the “manpo-kei”, a Japanese pedometer from the 1960s that was invented by Y. Hatano . Manpo-kei translates literally to “10,000-steps meter.” While mechanical pedometers have been in existence for hundreds of years, smaller electronic versions with higher levels of accuracy made them more accepted in the late 20th century.
Y. Hatano was among the first researchers to illustrate that 10,000 steps a day led to significant improvements in a person's health.
CNN describes the cardiovascular benefits to the 10,000 steps as this: “research revealed that men who burn at least 2,000 calories per week by exercising have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. That breaks down to about 300 calories per day, which most people can torch by taking 10,000 steps, explains David R. Bassett, Jr., professor of kinesiology, recreation, and sport studies at the University of Tennessee.”
When typically calculated, 10,000 steps is roughly equivalent to 5 miles. In fact, even the CDC recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise for adults daily to maintain proper health.
The American Heart Association considers 10,000 steps to be “Walking 101,” and directly lists the following benefits of increased walking:
However, it should be noted that time or distance (or even steps for that matter) is not the important thing to stay mindful of. This is also true for any kind of dietary calculation for that matter, it’s not the actual number that is important, because it’s not a competition.
There really are 2 main reasons that the fitness industry has latched onto tracking results with numbers.
The best example of how counting something will make you better at it, is also health related. Counting calories- simply tracking calories (along with sodium, sugar, fat, etc) will inherently lead to greater awareness about your intake and can lead to significant breakthroughs in what you eat. While a calorie is a calorie, knowing exactly what and how many calories you have eaten can lead to better informed choices for your diet.
This is also true of how many steps you take. If you have no idea how many steps you have taken, it is easy to become complacent about exercise. In this way a fitness tracker can be a huge help in promoting a healthier, more active lifestyle.
You don’t have to go out and buy a fancy new tracker, there are plenty of free apps that you can download to your phone. As long as you take it seriously and strive to improve daily, you will see positive benefits in your overall health and lifestyle.
Here are a few creative ways to get to and maybe even beyond those 10,000 steps:
In the end, it’s not the 10,000 steps that matter, it is the ambition of setting goals, achieving them, then exceeding them.
Once you have gotten this far, pushing your goals becomes easier and more rewarding, 10,000 steps might just be the easiest way of getting started.