About one year ago, it was documented that walking 10,000 steps a day is better for you than just about anything else you can do. Why?

steps a day

The average person has such a sedentary lifestyle—sitting at a desk, in a car, in front of the TV, or a computer—that doing the thirty minutes of moderate activity recommended by the CDC couldn’t possibly counteract all of that lying around.

But why 10,000 steps? What’s the theory behind it? What research led to this magical, seemingly way to round and simple a number?

Well, no research at first. Walking clubs were super popular in Japan and they were so popular that everybody wanted a pedometer. Those pedometers were marked under the name manpo-kei which means 10,000 steps meter because a Japanese doctor estimated that it should be the enough steps to burn 20% of the calories that somebody takes in. That’s a good name, it’s a good estimate and the concept stuck ever since. But do walking 10,000 steps a day actually work?

Oh yes! Studies done recently show that hitting the goal can lower your blood pressure and improve your glucose level.

An Australian study showed that meeting the goal actually improves someone’s brain function and level of physical fitness by 2%. But so can considerably fewer steps for most people.

So, the average American takes about 5100 steps a day. The CDC says that bumping that to 8,000 can still give you all of the health benefits you need and is basically equivalent to adding a 30 minute walk onto your day.

What if you already work out? What if you jog? Even if you get less than 10,000 steps running has got to be equal to walking, right?

Not really. Over the last 19 years, obesity in the U.S. has increased by about 57% and physical activity at work and at home has declined at a similar rate. We sit around a lot and that can be very unhealthy. If you jog a couple of miles and get 4,000 steps in or if you hit the gym and get 30 minutes of increased heart rate, but then spend the other 23 and a half hours of your day sitting around, you are not getting the same health benefits as you would by hitting the gym but also making sure you hit your walking goal.

That’s not to say stop going to the gym. That’s also not to say jump in right now and get between 8,000-10,000 steps a day immediately. Adding any level of activity can get you immediate benefits.

Colorado has one of the lowest obesity rates in the U.S. and they walk about 6,500 steps a day. Tennessee and Arkansas have higher obesity rates and they walk about 4,500 steps a day. That 2,000 steps is making a big difference in overall health.

So 10,000 steps is not a magic number and it’s not going to get you in shape on its own, but a day full of slow steady simple physical activity, like walking, can be extremely healthy for you.

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