10,000 Steps: Myth Vs. Maxim
By Author Name
Jun 18, 2018
Updated Oct 25, 2023
5 min read
Disclaimer: Always consult your physician before beginning any exercise program.
We've all heard it before — aim to walk 10,000 steps a day for a healthier life. But where did this nice, perfectly round number come from? As it turns out, it wasn't calculated by a team of experts sweating over stacks of data. The short answer is it comes from the marketing of a Japanese pedometer brand in the 1960s. But Japanese culture and diet from 50+ years ago has changed, and it has always been different from the way Americans live and eat.
There's never going to be a universal magic number (or exercise routine) that everyone should abide by, because personal health and fitness goals vary largely from person to person. Still, it doesn't hurt to spend more time being active on a daily basis, and 10,000 steps a day isn't a bad place to start. Let's break it down for a moment with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control guidelines for physical activity:
For substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 2 hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate-intensity, or 1 hour and 15 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity.
So basically just be more active, more of the time, and do something to elevate your heart rate. If you're someone who's let your exercise regimen fall by the wayside, remember to start with baby steps. Our very own Michael DaRosa, DO, at Denver Sports Medicine, weighs in from a daily perspective:
Even just 30 minutes per day of brisk walking or 15 minutes of vigorous cardio exercise increases your chances of living a longer, healthier life. So if having a daily goal of 10,000 steps helps motivate individuals to meet these recommendations, that's great. But there are other forms of moderate intensity and vigorous exercise that can be done other than walking. It's also important per the American College of sports medicine to perform resistance and flexibility training 2-3 days per week.
So for a change of pace (no pun intended), you might try upping the intensity of your daily fitness through short, quick bursts on the treadmill or with kettlebell exercises. Another alternative (or even supplement) to 10,000 steps called the "Active 10" focuses on getting folks to walk briskly for 10 minute intervals. It's not defined as "vigorous" but it will get your heart beating faster than simply trying to clock in a certain number of steps. Try to shoot for three 10-minute walks if you can, but again — know yourself. Starting with a once-a-day routine might ensure better repetition.
Whether you decide to go for 10,000 steps, the Active 10 or your own unique blend of cardio exercises, the trick is to stick with it. Find something that you can accomplish on a regular basis, and commit to it. Once you've done that, you can up your game and get even more focused with your fitness goals!