10,000 steps to what?

10,000 steps to what?

Is it right for everyone to aim for 10,000 steps a day?

There are many fitness websites, apps and trackers out there that set users a target of 10,000 steps a day. But where has this advice come from and can it really be right for everyone?


In the 1960s and around the time of the Tokyo Olympics, it was found that if an average Japanese man walked 10,000 steps a day, he would burn around 3000 calories, which was what was thought the average person should consume. Pedometers were then marketed in Japan with the name manpo-kei, which translates to “10,000 steps meter.”

Catrine Tudor-Locke, an associate professor at the Pennington Biomedical Research Centre at Louisiana State University, said: “It was a business slogan, like ‘Just Do It’ for Nike, but it resonated with people.” The idea of 10,000 steps a day caught on then, and it is still infamous today.

One size fits all?

There is no doubt that there are numerous benefits associated with regular walking and it has been claimed that it is 10,000 steps a day that is the key to such positive outcomes. Possible benefits include improved fitness, weight loss, a healthier heart, muscle toning, increased energy levels, strengthening of joints, increased metabolism and improved mood. But the question is whether the big ’10,000’ number is fit for all.

Some have suggested that 10,000 steps may not be the right target for everyone. For example, people suffering from injury, older people or people who, for other reasons, are not physically capable of walking 10,000 steps every day, could do themselves more harm than good if they treat this target as absolute.

Dr Greg Hager, from Johns Hopkins University in the US, said “very few” fitness apps are based on scientific evidence. He is especially critical of apps and devices that set users a target of 10,000 steps, suggesting that they could be driving people to chase over-ambitious goals.

Important to keep active

Most are in agreement, however, that it is important to keep active. Walking more if you can, together with regular exercise to suit your physical ability, age and current fitness level, is a good thing. There is evidence that being sedentary is bad for your health, even if you are getting regular exercise, so making the effort to get up and move or walk whenever you can is a positive habit to get into.

The NHS advises that: ‘adults aged 65 or older who are generally fit and have no health conditions that limit their mobility should try to be active daily and should do: at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, such as cycling or walking, every week, and strength exercises on two or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).’

So, 10,000 steps a day may not be right for everyone and may not get everyone where they want to go, but maintaining a suitable level of physical activity for you personally and trying to keep as active as you can, will certainly point you in the right direction.

For more detailed advice on how to keep active and healthy, visit: www.nhs.uk/Livewell/fitness/Pages/physical-activity-guidelines-for-older-adults.aspx