Health & Wellness

10,000 Steps a Day Is No Magic Bullet

Yes, you need to keep moving, but not as far as you think

Photo: iStock/rclassenlayouts.

Everybody knows that you need to walk 10,000 steps a day to stay fit—except that a recently published study has found that walking less than half that number of steps can provide you with an equal benefit.

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston recorded the number of steps walked by almost 17,708 women over a week. After a follow-up period of more than four years, they found that the incidence of death among women who walked at least 4,400 steps a day on average was 41% lower than among those who didn’t. Mortality was highest among women who averaged 2,700 steps.

Mortality rates decreased as the number of steps walked increased, until 7,500 steps a day, at which point mortality rates remained the same. That means you’ll get an equal benefit regardless of whether you walk 7,500 or 10,000 steps per day. The results were published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

Fitness goals like the 10,000-step target tend to catch on because they’re easy to understand, but creating goals with such black and white requirements is also short-sighted, since they fail to take into consideration the intensity with which people pursue their daily step goals. A slow walk, with breaks in between, obviously won’t do as much for your health as a brisk hike or a bout of speed walking will. It’s no surprise then that federal government doesn’t make any formal recommendations to Canadians regarding the correct number of steps to walk each day. The trick is to get moving. The current recommendation is that you get 150 minutes—two and a half hours—of aerobic exercise a week.