Less than 10,000 steps a day is still ok, new study says

Most of us who never leave home without a fitness tracker are well aware that 10,000 steps per day is the typical goal for a day’s activity. That equates to around 5 miles. However, if you are struggling to meet that goal, there is no need to despair. A new study says most people don’t meet that goal, and that taking fewer steps may still bring health benefits, especially if you walk at a brisk pace.

Essential reading: Why sitting is slowly killing you, and what you can do about it

Some 3,400 US adults who took part in a national health survey were asked to strap a fitness tracker to their wrist for a week. The study assessed participants based on a number of health measures that could indicate their risks of chronic diseases such as waist circumference, body mass index and blood pressure, among others.

Most of those who participated in the research took less then 10,000 steps daily. In fact, less than 1 in 5 walked the recommended amount. The typical range for an American is between 5,000 and 7,000 steps per day. But the more steps people took the better those individuals fared in health measures.

“Some physical activity is better than none, and typically more is better than less,” said John Schuna Jr., assistant professor of kinesiology in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences.

“When it comes to steps, more is better than fewer, and steps at higher cadences for a significant amount of time are beneficial. A good target for healthy adults is 150 minutes per week spent at 100 or more steps per minute. And in terms of time spent sedentary, less is better – you want to spend as little time not moving as possible within reason.”

What this essentially means, to make up for the 10,000 step count researchers recommend that you engage in moderate intensity physical activity (anything above 100 steps per minute), for 30 minutes a day. After all, if you are riding a bicycle you are not going to be accumulating any steps. Furthermore, the study found that even people who had a peak 30-minute cadence of about 70 to 80 steps experienced health benefits.

It is a little known fact that walking 10,000 steps per day for health and weight loss originated more than half a century ago in Japan. Pedometers became all the rage in the run-up to the 1964 Tokyo Olympic games. At the time, a Japanese company came out with a device called a ‘manpo-kei’, which means 10,000 step meter.

Since then, that number has become a commonly acknowledged goal for daily fitness across the world. But if you go to different official sources – you will get a range of figures between 7,000 and 10,000 steps.

Essential reading: Day you really need 10,000 steps per day?

The popular target is still a worthwhile goal. After all, it burns about 400 calories. But as this new study shows, don’t feel too bad if you don’t reach it. At the very least, aim to walk over 3,000 steps at a brisk pace and limit sedentary time in order to stay healthy.

The study on which this story is based is available online.

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