The 10,000 Steps-A-Day Objective For Health Benefits Is Based on Bad Science

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When did the trend with the 10,000-steps-a-day goal for a healthy body begin?

It all began back in the mid-60s in Japan, as a marketing campaign for the Tokyo Olympics. Then, the company Yamas created the first wearable device that would count the steps – the manpo-key, known as the 10,000-step meter.

Professor David Bassett, head of kinesiology, recreation, and sport studies at the University of Tennessee explains that this number was not based on evidence that it was perfect for health benefits:

“There wasn’t really any evidence for it at the time. They just felt that was a number that was indicative of an active lifestyle and should be healthy.”

However, the WHO, the American Heart Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services all swear by the 10,000 daily steps recommendation.

Studies Have Faulty Results: Comparing 3,000 Steps With 10,000?

Many studies tried to conclude if the claim was correct, and the results were contradicting, wrote The Guardian. Some of them compared health results from people that walked 10,000 steps a day with those that walked only 3,000 – 5,000, explained Professor Catrine Tudor-Locke (Center for Personalized Health Monitoring, University of Massachusetts Amherst):

“This number keeps being reinforced because of the way research studies are designed. So, the study might find that 10,000 helps you lose more weight than 5,000 and then the media see it and report: ‘Yes, you should go with 10,000 steps,’ but that could be because the study has only tested two numbers. It didn’t test 8,000, for example, and it didn’t test 12,000.”

Then, pre-existing medical conditions like diabetes would do more harm to people if they jump to 10,000 steps-a-day. Some studies have shown that an active life starts somewhere between 6,000 and 8,000 steps.

Scientists concluded that the best guideline is to have 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day, with the minimum of 7,500 steps a day.

They also focus on the cadence of the activity, explained Tudor-Locke:

“When intensity’s better, your heart is pounding a little faster, more blood goes through your body, things are crossing the cell wall that need to; all these things are happening quicker.”

She concluded that the area of the research has just begun, and scientists should be “looking at how healthy people are not just by how many steps they’ve taken, but the rate at which they’ve done it.”

Doris’s passion for writing started to take shape in college where she was editor-in-chief of the college newspaper. Even though she ended up working in IT for more than 7 years, she’s now back to what he always enjoyed doing. With a true passion for technology, Doris mostly covers tech-related topics.