Step to It

Like many other coaches, trainers, and health gurus, we’ve long recommended people consider tracking their daily step counts, aiming for at least 10,000 a day. And, indeed, research well supports the benefits of getting 10,000 daily steps; hitting that number results in a nearly 50% drop in all-causes mortality as compared to a sedentary baseline.

Still, the precision of 10,000 is a bit arbitrary. It stems from a Japanese 1960’s public service advertising campaign promoting the first cheaply available electronic pedometers, when “manpo-kei,” or “measure 10,000 steps,” made for an easy, succinct, and catchy slogan. Ever since, 10,000 has stuck as the default pedometer goal. 

Earlier this month, however, the International Journal of Obesity published a great observational study of Scottish postal workers, examining the relationship between walking and metabolic syndrome (a cluster of health conditions that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes). Not surprisingly, the study concluded that “compared with those without metabolic syndrome, participants with metabolic syndrome were significantly less active-fewer steps, shorter stepping duration and longer time sitting.”

But tucked in the paper is a more interesting, and more specific, observation: all of the postmen and women who had no symptoms of metabolic syndrome walked at least 15,000 steps per day.

Obviously, there’s only so much we can glean from a single study. But it does suggest that, while 10,000 may be a great initial goal, it might not be the ideal final stopping point. So if you’re tracking your steps, and already consistently hitting 10k, consider upping that goal by 1,000 more each month, until you reach the 15,000 step point. Considering the huge amount of research backing the benefits of walking in general, wedging in a little more of it certainly couldn’t hurt.