10,000 Steps per Day: The Rule to Break or Beat?

Millions of fitness trackers are sold each year, and health officials worldwide encourage walking at least 10,000 steps per day to stay healthy. That translates to roughly five miles per day and about 3,500 extra calories burned per week. Walking is said to improve mental health, cardiovascular health, weight loss, and much more, but where did this industry standard come from? Much like the recommendation to drink eight glasses of water a day, it's worth asking if the 10,000-step benchmark is accurate regardless of your age, gender, or current health. A closer look reveals that taking 10,000 steps per day might not be enough, might be too much, or might be just right.

Who Is Behind the 10,000 Steps Rule?

The recommendation of taking 10,000 steps daily is linked back to Japanese walking clubs, the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, and a marketing slogan. In fact, the first pedometer was called a manpo-meter or "manpo-kei," which means "10,000 steps measure" in Japanese. Since then, some research has found that taking 10,000 steps a day can positively influence body composition (weight, body mass index, body fat, etc.), which has been shown to boost plenty of other health factors, including heart health and quality of life.

Tips to Keep in Mind

There are a few things to keep in mind depending on your fitness level, health goals, and age. For those who are already active, or those who live in cities and take public transit to and from work, 10,000 steps per day may seem too simple to meet. If that's the case, you'll have to set your goals higher. Older adults should actually take more steps. Research found that 12,500 steps was actually a more optimal number of target steps for postmenopausal women to effectively change their body composition.

Quality Versus Quantity

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends basing your exercise goals on minutes and rigorousness of activity, not how many steps you take a day. At a minimum, the CDC recommends that adults get 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity (brisk walking) or 75 minutes of brisk activity (jogging/running), plus two or more days of strength training per week. For even greater health benefits, aim for 300 minutes of moderate activity or 150 minutes of vigorous activity, plus at least two days of strength training per week.

Move More, Feel Better

The real key to setting and beating your daily exercise goals lies in your exercise intensity and fitness tracking. For example, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is booming because it works. Research shows that HIIT exercise can lower blood pressure, increase muscle-sculpting testosterone, and increase fat loss. Pedometers on fitness trackers are one of the most sought-after pieces of tech, because knowledge is power. In fact, according to research by the Sanford School of Medicine, people who wore a pedometer took 2,000 more steps (or 27 percent more) per day. Plus, the more you're moving, the less you're sitting, which is a very good thing.

To put it simply, having a goal of hitting 10,000 steps per day is a good place to start. However, chances are that your body needs even more exercise to stay healthy and in shape. Follow these tips, and keep in mind that some great ways to boost your weekly exercise regimen include walking or riding your bike to work, taking the stairs when possible, joining a gym, getting a standing desk, or even joining a mall walking group. You can also become a weekend warrior, and make a plan to meet up with friends to go biking, hiking, walking, swimming, and exploring together. You're never too young, old, or busy to have fun. And burning some calories, or taking 10,000 steps, while you're at it can only be a good thing.