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John Piatkowski, MD

10,000 steps per day?

Over the last decade, the idea of taking 10,000 steps per day has become a benchmark figure. But do you really need to hit it to get and stay fit?

Before we answer that, let's take a step back to the number's origins. In 1965, a Japanese company began selling a pedometer it called the Manpo-kei. Literal translation: 10,000 steps. The number has been floating around since – and it took off in a big way with the rise of digital activity trackers, some of which have a default 10,000 step target.

In 2019, researchers at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital looked at that goal in a study of 16,741 women. Some key findings: Women who averaged 4,400 steps a day lived longer and were healthier than those who walked an average of 2,700 steps. And women who averaged 7,500 steps benefited even more. But here's the surprising result: Women who walked more than 7,500 steps each day didn't get any extra health benefits. 

So don't stress about hitting 10,000 steps. Start where you're at and try to work up to 7,500 if you can. And remember: Any number of steps is better than none at all. 

Take the first step

Need more reasons to lace up? Consider these benefits:

  • The National Institutes of Health reports that walking five days a week for 30 minutes at a stretch can cut your risk of heart disease by 19 percent.
  • Making an important decision or in the middle of a conflict? A brisk walk can help you think more clearly and improve your mood. 
  • Movement can help get rid of stress, which can have harmful effects on your health.
  • Studies from the U.K.'s University of Exeter found that a 15-minute walk can curb cravings for sugary snacks.
  • American Cancer Society research shows that women who walk seven hours or more a week can lower their risk of breast cancer by 14 percent.

So put on some comfortable shoes, grab a walking stick and water, and enjoy your stroll. Your body and mind will thank you.