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WHY 10,000 STEPS?

The Mystery Demystified. We have all heard that we need to walk 10,000 steps per day. Where did this come from? Who and when was this decided?  What is the science behind this? How did they come up with this 10,000 steps per day number? Fact or fiction?  Today’s post will provide some history and hopefully demystify the mystery of the 10,000 steps per day notion.


Early in the 1960’s the first “pedometer” originated.  According to US News, Catrine Tudor-Locke from the Walking Behavior Laboratory said the Japanese device was called a “manpo kei”.  Translated this means “10000 steps meter”.  So was there science behind the 10000 number at that time, suffice it to say – it was not.  The idea of 10,000 steps became popular with walking groups at the time in Japan and slowly crossed continents.

Today there has been research conducted to determine from a health perspective, what happens when 10000 steps per day are taken. Most of the research centered on the health benefits that people obtained from walking 10000 steps.  The average number of steps walked was around 5000 and with increased steps beyond the 5000 health benefits occurred. According to US News, across many studies, researchers found blood pressure and glucose levels improved as the number of steps increased towards the 10000. What I expected to find as I read articles is research indicating what the exact number of steps were for optimal health and weight loss.  To my surprise that is not the information I found.

Is 10000 a magic number? Not really.  There is no official recommendation on 10000 steps however the CDC recommends engaging in 150 minutes of moderate activity a week, including brisk walking for health benefits.  Keep in mind everything I read continued to talk about health benefits and did not specifically focus on weight loss when discussing 10000 steps especially if the 10000 steps was the only activity one would get in a day.  No study that I read, officially declared sustained weight loss to be an outcome of walking 10000 steps per day.  Although fascinating, I would think that someone currently doing nothing, or walking far less than 10000 steps per day could benefit and possible see some weight loss by increasing there daily step count to 10000.  10000 steps are roughly equal to 5 miles.  Five miles is a substantial amount of walking any way you cut if, especially if you are someone that is just starting back into physical activity.

If you are not at 10000, the first step is to get to 10000 steps per day.  There is no single strategy in how you get there. What works for you is what will work.  Get some type of measuring device so you have some idea of the number of steps that you take and start logging your steps.

Some strategies that I use to accumulate steps:

  1. At home I walk whenever I can i.e. if a store is within 1 mile of my home, I walk to and from (provided I am not doing the weeks grocery shopping at the time) – anything that makes you walk – gardening, cutting the lawn, playing with the kids all count

  2. At work I walk to the bathroom in another building for 1200 quick steps – this means I don’t wait until the last minute to go

  3. I keep a 3 cup water bottle on my desk to make sure I have to get up 3 times and walk to the furthest water fountain in the building to get refills (any larger and I would have to refill less times)

  4. When I have a 15 minute break, I take 10 minutes to walk in a loop outside (whenever possible) around the campus back to my starting point

  5. I always take 30 minutes so of my lunch time and walk

  6. I try not to do conference calls and walk to the meeting for a face to face

  7. If I have to do a conference call, if I am in my office I stand and march in place the entire meeting (and only stop if I have to talk)

  8. Saturday and Sunday I get a long walk in early morning over 5 miles with my BFF and walking partner – we catch up with each other during this time

  9. I walk my dogs daily 1.5 miles (Hubby does mornings and I do evenings)

  10. At work I try to use email very little and just get up and go talk to people

  11. Each day I try to do a personal best with my steps, even if I take 1 more step than I did yesterday it is a PR (personal record) and I do a little happy dance celebration (ok this makes me laugh and smile)

You will be amazed at how fast the numbers add up on the step counter.  So it is FACT that 10000 steps per day is a level of activity sufficient for gaining health benefits. The theory is to get people up and moving. If you are not doing 10000 steps daily, set short term goals and slowly increase by 1000 steps per week.  Continue and build up to the 10000 steps per day.  Just continue to do your best to make a conscious effort to do something, if just a little more than the previous day, EVERY DAY. The most important thing is to increase your activity level beyond what you were doing before.  Note, that any amount of activity that you can do today that you didn’t do yesterday, you will benefit from.

Remember consistency is key – life happens, live it, love it, embrace it and make a daily workout part of your plan.

Until we meet again.. yours in fitness




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