Lits goal of 10,000 steps a day dates back to the launch of the step by step, created by the Japanese company Yamasa Clock, in 1965. The device in question is called “Manpo-kei”, which can be translated as “foot counter. 10,000 steps”.
Although it was in fact a marketing tool for better sales of steps, this idea of 10,000 steps has imposed itself around the world as a daily goal to be achieved. Even now it is pre-programmed as a daily distance to travel in some smart watches like Fitbit.
Since then, researchers have been interested in this goal of 10,000 steps a day. Some studies have shown that walking at least 10,000 steps a day improves cardiovascular health, mental health, and even reduces the risk of diabetes. This may to some extent explain why we have widely adopted this arbitrary number.
In ancient Rome, distances were measured by counting steps. By the way, the word “thousand”, a unit of measure of distance in the imperial system, is derived from the Latin expression mila passum, which means 1000 steps.
A normal person makes about 100 steps per minute – which means it takes a little less than 30 minutes to walk a mile (or 1.6 km). So, to achieve the goal of 10,000 steps, one would have to walk between four and five miles a day (equivalent to 6 to 8 km), which is approximately two hours of activity.
But while some research has shown the health benefits of taking 10,000 steps, other recent studies from Harvard Medical School have shown that 4,400 steps a day is enough to significantly improve a woman’s life expectancy.
They followed the participants in the Harvard study for a little over four years. The mortality rate among those who averaged 4,400 steps per day was significantly lower than that of less active women whose daily number of steps was about 2,700 steps. The mortality rate in the group gradually decreased as the number of steps increased, equaling to 7,500 steps per day. No additional benefit was found from this number.
Although it should be examined whether similar results could be seen in men, this study shows that moving a little more each day can actually improve health and reduce the risk of death.