If you have any sort of interest in fitness, or even just a friend with a smartwatch, you’ve probably heard that we’re all supposed to take 10,000 steps a day. The idea of taking 10,000 steps every day has helped a lot of new people take an interest in their levels of physical activity. But is this all just a marketing technique, or something with an actual scientific basis?
The goal of 10,000 steps a day is believed to date back to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Although pedometers had been around for a while, the impending games gave a lot of people a renewed interest in sports. With this came the release of a new pedometer called the manpo-kei, which translates to 10,000 steps. The pedometer proved popular, and it is thought that the 10,000 steps goal came as a result of other companies imitating the manpo-kei.
Although there are numerous studies that show taking 10,000 steps a day can benefit your weight, cholesterol, and risk of heart disease, the truth is the benefits of taking 10,000 steps a day vary greatly from person to person. Someone who slowly and gently works their way up to 10,000 a day won’t see as much of a benefit as someone who goes on an exerting hike, for example.
Setting a goal of 10,000 steps also fails to take into account all sorts of other exercises. Things like cycling, lifting weights, or doing yoga are not taken into account, even though they have a major influence over how beneficial your steps will be. If you’re already a fitness fanatic who works out 2 hours every day, 10,000 steps won’t make much of a difference. If hitting 10,000 steps is the only reason you get off the couch, the effects will be far more noticeable.
Useful or Not?
On the question of whether or not 10,000 steps a day will impact your health, the answer is, it depends. As stated above, 10,000 steps won’t have a major impact for people who are already quite physically active. It also appears that the healthiest people are those who take around 15,000 steps a day. But most Irish people take about 5,000 steps a day, and we are currently on track to be the most obese country in the EU by 2030, so for most of us, setting a goal of 10,000 will help.
The real power that the number 10,000 holds is the power to inspire people to get up and get moving. It is a large but abstract number, and one that we will be working on whether we keep count or not. So for most people, it is simply a goal that gives us a bit of a rush, and a reason to take an interest in our levels of physical activity. 10,000 steps a day should not be our only physical activity, but it does help prevent people from becoming too sedentary, and take an active interest in their health.