Do You Actually Need 10,000 Steps a Day?

Do we need 10,000 steps a day?
Photo by Jeffrey Grospe on Unsplash

If there is any new fitness trend that has really taken hold of the fitness community, it’s the 10,000 steps a day metric. Seemingly out of nowhere, everybody was wearing fitness trackers that told them that they couldn’t rest for the day until they’d gotten 10,000 steps, about five miles of walking, in.

But is it actually true that, in order to be healthy, you should walk 10,000 steps a day?

Well, the truth is that the “10,000” number is quite arbitrary, having become popularized in the 1960s when a Japanese clockmaker created a pedometer and called it what translates to the “10,000 steps-meter,” creating a new walking goal that hadn’t really existed before.

But, according to modern science, 10,000 steps isn’t the magic number that so many have come to believe it is. One study showed that 4,400 daily steps are enough to reduce the risk of premature death, while another showed that 8,000 steps was the highest number that showed statistical benefits.

It seems to be impossible to pin down a single perfect number of steps you need to take a day in order to remain healthy and live longer, but the bigger idea behind it—that staying active instead of sedentary is important for your health—is what is really important here.

So do you need to obsess over getting to 10,000 steps a day? No. Will it be good for you if you get there? Yes. But will it be just as good for you to make your best effort, regardless of the actual number of steps you reach? Definitely.