You have probably heard of the recommendation to walk at least 10,000 steps each day. This is a commendable goal, but if we don’t reach that target, it’s tempting to simply give up and throw in the towel.
New research has concluded that the 10,000 step target might actually be a little on the high side, in a report from Atlantic.com.
Researchers from Harvard gave fitness trackers to 16,000 women ages 62 to 101 and counted their steps. They then monitored their health for a four-year period. In a comparable study, scientists from the renowned Karolinska Institute in Stockholm gave a similar device to 851 subjects, including almost 400 men, and tracked them for 14.2 years. In other words, one trial observed an impressively large number of subjects, and the other monitored its subjects for an impressive number of follow up years.
Surprise! After adjusting for diet, lifestyle, and other factors, the Harvard researchers found that the women who walked about 4,400 steps a day had a 41% lower risk of premature death than the least active gals, who averaged 2,700 steps. The Swedish study also found that the most active subjects had a 50 to 70 percent decline in mortality during a defined follow up period compared to the least active, most sedentary participants.
Walking more than 4,400 steps further on decreased the risk level moderately, and the benefits plateaued at around 7,500.
Harvard lead author i-Min Lee says the 10,000-step goal should be lowered to encourage more people to get walking. “If you’re sedentary,” she says, “even a very modest increase brings you significant health benefits.”
Fun fact to ponder: The 10,000 step target isn’t actually based on scientific research – it stems from a 1960s marketing campaign for a Japanese pedometer that played on the fact that the Japanese character for 10,000 resembles a man walking!
Take away message: Don’t give up if you aren’t walking 10,000 steps a day. Shoot for at least 4,400 – a much more manageable target.