Counting steps: Do you really need 10,000 steps every day?

Not much science behind recommended daily goal of 10,000 steps

Activity trackers seem to promote 10,000 steps per day as the golden standard -- but what is the science behind this number? And does this goal suit everyone? Dr. Frank McGeorge says: not really.
Activity trackers seem to promote 10,000 steps per day as the golden standard -- but what is the science behind this number? And does this goal suit everyone? Dr. Frank McGeorge says: not really.

Smart watches and various fitness trackers have made it easier than ever to count your steps, with many of them citing 10,000 steps per day as the golden standard.

The watches are a good way to encourage yourself to move more, but there’s nothing magic about that 10,000 steps number -- at least when it comes to your health. Though most fitness trackers recommend a goal of 10,000 steps per way, which is about five miles, there isn’t really much scientific support behind that number.

A 2019 Harvard study found that regular walking did improve mortality rates in older women, but the reduction in risk appeared to max out at about 7,500 steps per day.

A 2020 study from the National Institute of Health found that out of nearly 5,000 men and women, those who walked 8,000 steps a day were half as likely to die early than those who walked 4,000 steps per day. But the statistical benefits of walking more steps than that were not significant.

Practically speaking, if you’re already very fit or trying to lose weight, then 10,000 steps a day may be too low of a goal. On the other hand, if walking is difficult for you, a goal of 10,000 steps may be too much.

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The fact of the matter is that movement every day is important. Regular walking has been shown to promote weight loss, reduce your risk of a long list of diseases, improve your mental health and boost your energy.

The average American only walks about 3,000-4,000 steps per day. Experts say that if you want to boost your step count, track how much you’re walking now and then work toward adding 1,000 extra steps a day every two weeks.


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About the Author:

Dr. McGeorge can be seen on Local 4 News helping Metro Detroiters with health concerns when he isn't helping save lives in the emergency room at Henry Ford Hospital.