Being active is an important part of living a healthy life. These days, many people have step counters built into their watches or other devices, which can be a great motivator to get us moving more. It is often recommended to aim for 10,000 steps per day, which can seem daunting for some people. So where did this number come from? And is 10,000 steps what we have to reach in order to see a health benefit?
One of the premises behind this number is that 10,000 steps burns about 500 calories. The reality is that this calorie burn is going to vary greatly depending on factors such as age, gender, weight, how fast you are walking, are you walking uphill or downhill, etc etc… so it really can’t be relied on it at all. The other notion is that 10,000 steps is conveniently about 5 miles in distance – which of course will vary from person to person as well. What is actually recommended by activity guidelines for adults is not even measured in steps – it is actually 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per week.
A recent study suggests that 10,000 steps is not necessary when it comes to living longer. In this study of over 16,000 women with an average age of 72 followed for an average of 4.3 years, women who walked 4400 steps per day lived longer than those who walked just 2700 steps per day. Mortality rates further decreased and levelled off at about 7500 steps per day. How fast they walked didn’t matter.
Of course, there are several potential factors in this type of study that could muddy the results. Women who walked less may have been walking less because they were sick. Women who walked more may also be women who eat more healthily. But the point is that while more walking is better, you are still doing your body good even if you are not making it to 10,000 steps. Every step counts!
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