As technology continues to advance more and more devices are coming forward with step tracking options including phones, pedometers, and other electronics attached to our clothing. Many individuals aim to hit the 10,000 or 5 mile point each day, but you may be surprised this number is not based in science but was rather put forward decades ago by a Japanese pedometer company. To date limited evidence supports 10,000 steps as a fitness marker each day. No one can dispute more activity for Americans in our country will help make us a more active, happier, and healthier society, but the 10K step barrier may also become a deterrent. Those who feel they cannot reach 10,000 steps may feel discouraged and avoid walking shorter distances which are also beneficial to their health. A recent study examined this exact question.
Lee and colleagues in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine Journal studied the health impact of various step counts in a cohort of females (2019). Authors studied 16,741 women (average age 72 years) and measured their self selected steps per day over a 7 day period between 2011 and 2015. Authors found women who averaged approximately 4400 steps/day had significantly lower death rates at their 4 year follow up compared to women who took less than 2700 steps/day. A dose/response relationship was found with greater health benefits up to 7500 steps per day but further increases in activity did not further reduce mortality rates. Authors reported greater than 2700 steps/day but less than 10,000 steps per day can have significant health benefits for walkers.
If your goal is caloric burn every minute of activity counts but if your goal is cardiovascular benefit aim for at least 10 continuous minutes. Remember 3, 10 minute walks are equivalent to 1, 30 minute walk.