The 10,000-steps-per-day goal set by Fitbit and other fitness trackers is so ingrained you may think it was handed down along with the Ten Commandments.
It actually was spawned by a rudimentary pedometer released by a Japanese company after the 1964 Tokyo Olympics as Manpo-Kei, or the “10,000-Step Meter,” written with two Japanese characters that looked like a person walking.
This figure wasn’t arrived at through either science or religion, but as a marketing ploy.
How well does it stand up to scrutiny?
Two recent studies found older women who walk 7,500 steps and middle-aged adults who take 8,000 steps daily face about half the risk of dying as those who take half as many steps, after which longevity dividends tend to level off. So Manpo-Kei wasn’t that far off in hitting the target for the optimal number of daily steps.
There are other reasons why the 10,000-step goal has stayed relevant through the decades. Most people take around 30 minutes to accomplish this, which happens to add up to the 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It’s an easy and impressive-sounding objective to remember and there are virtually no barriers to entry, with reliable pedometers costing $15 or less and higher-end fitness providing other valuable data like heart rate and approximate calories burned.
Walking more than 8,000 steps per day will improve your muscle tone and may bring an additional mental health payoff.
Your ideal fitness goals will depend on many factors and may not involve steps at all if your passion lies with something like swimming or cycling. Kids and teens may have energy to spare after 15,000 steps in 24 hours while some women in their 70s may only be able to do 5,000, which the research shows can lower their risk of dying by half over others who walk half as far.
If you want to boost your daily step count closer to the magic “10K” daily goal, experts suggest adding 1,000 steps each week you are able until you reach your target — and then consider a higher one!