The 10,000 steps per day are a myth. What the science really says

News hardware The 10,000 steps per day are a myth. What the science really says

We have all heard it before: to be healthy, you should take 10,000 steps a day. What if we told you it’s an urban legend? This is a myth spread by word of mouth, as can be that of anti-emetic tablets in McDonald’s burgers. While your health apps tell you to take your nose off your PC, here’s what the science really says about it.

The origin of the 10,000 steps a day myth

Manufacturers of connected watches and bracelets, among others, have been highlighting this figure for years. Apparently, we absolutely have to take 10,000 steps in 24 hours to be in good shape. You got it…it’s wrong.

The subject of the physical effort to be provided on a daily basis necessary for the proper functioning of our body, is, as you can imagine, studied enough in the scientific community. Many research papers do not validate the 10,000 step legend.

Since it is a pure invention, it is legitimate to ask the question of its origin. Where does the legend come from? Who invented this story of 10,000 daily steps?

To get the answer to this question, we have to go back 57 years, to 1965. That year, a Japanese company marketed a pedometer called Manpo-Kei. These 3 syllables can be translated as “10,000 meters of steps”.

Why choose 10,000? It’s marketing. Already, because it sounds good. But also, because the Kanji (letter of the Japanese alphabet) to write the number 10,000 is written . When you look at it with squinted eyes, this Kanji looks like a walking man. When you’re not Japanese, it’s impossible to understand this trick.

Yes, almost the entire planet is convinced that it is necessary to walk 10,000 steps a day to maintain good physical shape… because of a pun from a Japanese communications manager.

Today, almost all consumer health apps and devices (like smart watches) take those 10,000 steps as a baseline. Fortunately, it is almost always possible to adjust your goals yourself!

The 10,000 steps per day are a myth. What the science really says

If not 10,000, how many steps do you need to take daily to be healthy?

It’s been quite some time since science debunked this popular “fake news”. For example, we found a study published very recently on JAMA. You will find it under the name of “Steps per Day and All-Cause Mortality in Middle-aged Adults in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study”.

This study evokes a figure of 8000 daily steps for a fit adult. According to the researchers, this is the optimal number of steps.

You can have fun doing more, of course. But it seems that beyond 8000 steps, the benefits become more and more modest. Here is a pretty telling graph.

The 10,000 steps per day are a myth. What the science really says

A single research paper is stronger than an urban legend, but it’s not ideal. The top of the top in reliability, that’s what we call a meta-analysis.

The principle of meta-analysis is to bring together the results of several studies around the same subject made with different methodologies, across different periods and different countries.

For our topic of the day, we found a meta-analysis of 15 studies conducted around the world over twenty years. It can be found on the site The Lancet and is called “Daily steps and all-cause mortality: a meta-analysis of 15 international cohorts”. In all, the behavior of more than 47,000 adults has been analyzed by scientists.

Again, the result is clear:

  • If you are over 60, walking about 7000 steps can save your life.

The last sentence may shock you, but it is true. Meta-analysis shows older people who take 3,000 daily steps to 7,000 daily steps reduce their mortality risk by 50%

  • If you’re under 60, you need to take about 8,000 steps a day to be in top shape. Surprise: going to 10,000 daily steps even has an effect harmful on life expectancy.
The 10,000 steps per day are a myth. What the science really says

What does the WHO say about the number of steps to take every day to be fit?

Let’s conclude with the recommendations of the World Health Organization. A priori, there is nothing more reliable… you may be disappointed.

For the WHO, the number of steps you take each day is not an important measure. Instead, the organization recommends a certain amount of physical activity to do each day. This duration varies according to your age.

For adults aged 18 to 64, of which you are surely one, the WHO recommends moderate physical activity lasting a minimum of 150 to 300 minutes per week (from 2h30 to 5h of walking for example) or intense physical activity included between 75 and 150 minutes per week.

Also according to the WHO, you can exceed these minimum recommendations without problem. On the contrary, the more you exercise, the better.

Note that the recommendations of the World Health Organization are not daily but weekly. This means that if you decide to laze around for a day or two, it’s no big deal if you make up for that lazy day later.

In conclusion, remember that even if it is undeniable that movement is essential to maintain good health, each individual is a unique being. These figures are a reference to keep in mind, but they must not discourage you.

In all these recommendations, everyone will find something to suit them. All you have to do is take a few steps, at your own pace.

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The 10,000 steps per day are a myth. What the science really says