Weekly Wellness: What makes 10,000 a magic number?
COLUMBIA - A Sports Medicine paper by Catarine Tudor-Locke and David Bassett Jr. revealed that in the 1960s, pedometers sold in Japan were marketed with the name “manpo-kei,” which means “10,000 steps meter.” And, apparently, the number stuck.
The interesting thing is, while the original 10,000-step recommendation was anything but scientific, it holds up pretty well in helping the average person improve their health. According to a review from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, the average healthy adult takes between 4,000–18,000 steps per day; and in a 2015 PLOS ONE study, people who increased the number of daily steps from 1,000 to 10,000 cut their risk of death by 46 percent.
We've probably all heard that to prevent cardiovascular disease, we need 20 minutes–two hours of aerobic exercise per day. (Let's not forget that the number one cause of death in the U.S. is heart disease.)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn’t suggest a number of steps; it recommends that adults get 150 minutes of moderate exercise like brisk walking or 75 minutes of vigorous activity like running per week. (For those of us wearing pedometers or activity trackers, that works out to anywhere from 3,500–8,000 steps per day.) People should get the recommended two hours of strength training per week, too.
Remember that PLOS ONE study that I referenced earlier? It also found that people who increased their daily step count from 1,000 to just 3,000 steps per day, five days a week, reduced their risk of death by 12 percent.
With all that said, progress is progress. If you previously were completely sedentary, then 3,000 steps a day is FANTASTIC! And if previously, you were topping at 3,000 steps and now you're pushing 7,000, WAY TO GO! Keep working at it.
Conversely, if you are already relatively healthy and active, there’s no reason to stop at 10,000. Keep going! If you can make it 20,000 steps (or roughly 10 miles) of brisk walking, your health will likely benefit. After that, maybe not so much. In a recent study in the European Heart Journal, people who ran seven miles per hour or faster for 2.5 miles or more per week actually did more harm than good to their overall health.
So, is there a magic number? Maybe. But it may be different for each of us. Find yours and keeping the magic alive!
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