Every day, millions of people all over the world celebrate the same exact fitness goal–hitting a steps milestone on their wearable activity monitor.
Almost as ubiquitous as these devices are in our day to day lives is the nearly-universal 10,000 step goal that many have automatically programmed as their starting points.
But why 10,000 steps? Where did the number come from?
To answer that, we have to go back to 1964, and the lead-up to the Tokyo Olympics. Pedometers were very popular at the time, and a Japanese company came out with a device called “manpo-kei’,” which means 10,000 step meter. Ever since, 10,000 steps has been a generally-accepted goal for daily fitness.
As for whether or not 10,000 steps will really help you get fit and stay fit, the answer—as it is with many fitness-related questions—is it depends on who you are.
The Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity, which translates to between 7,000 and 8,000 steps per day. Since the average person walks between 3,000 and 4,000 steps per day, hitting 10,000 will likely require you to add structure and additional exercise to your daily life.
But the actual impact of those additional steps varies significantly. 10,000 steps is going to be different for someone who is 5’6 than someone who is 6’5. An avid exerciser will see far less of an impact from hitting 10,000 steps than someone who is inactive or unfit. And no matter who you are and how active a lifestyle you lead, the 400 calories burned by walking 10,000 steps won’t make much of a difference if you follow those steps up with fast food for dinner.
So the next time your wearable pings, buzzes, rings, or vibrates, definitely do pat yourself on the back. Just make sure it isn’t the only fitness-related moment you’re celebrating each day.