The 10,000 steps revolution has many of us with smart watches and apps on our phones addicted to counting steps. 10,000 steps is supposed to help us improve our health, keep us fit etc. But this arbitrary and perfectly round number seems to have come from a marketing campaign in Japan for a pedometer… Crazy to think that the world has gone crazy over something that started as an ad.

It can often be demoralising when you look at your phone or watch and see you haven’t got your 10000 steps in. It can actually be demotivating too. Many of us live sedentary lives – behind a desk or screen all day – moving only when we need to get up for food or to clock off. While the idea behind 10,000 steps a day is fantastic – more movement is always good – there is some new research that could make counting steps a little more manageable.

There is ample evidence that doing less than 10,000 steps is still good for you.

The University of Massachusetts ran a study recently that followed over 2000 ‘middle-aged’ adults from a variety of ethnic backgrounds for a period of 11 years. Researchers found that those walking/ taking at least 7,000 steps had a 50 to 70% lower risk of dying, compared to those taking less than 7,000 steps daily.

As with any study, there were some limitations. Step count wasn’t monitored throughout the study period, as researchers believed daily check-ins might be too onerous for the participants. But how much people can walk can change for various reasons, such as having young children, commute time to work, injury, and many other reasons, so it’s difficult to draw too many conclusions from this type of data.

Despite limitations, earlier evidence suggests the same

Harvard Medical School fielded their own research that showed, on average, about 4,400 steps a day is actually enough to significantly lower mortality rates in older women.

What’s the takeaway?

Naturally we take caution with the data from these studies, but what’s clear is that there are health benefits to doing less than 10,000 steps a day!

There are no easy guidelines linked to measured step count (comparative to the WHO’s 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week). This is because of the limited number of studies proving the relationship between step count and health benefits.

Roughly 1 in 4 of the global population do not meet the recommended levels of activity. More research to determine the right step count and intensity may help provide clearer guidelines for people to follow – rather than being either totally put off by the idea of 10,00 steps or just demotivated not being able to achieve the goal.

So, the next time you’re clocking a low step count on a busy weekday, don’t sweat it. If you can get yourself to 7,000 steps you’re reaping the benefits!

Steps count but it’s movement that matters

As we always say, move less more often. So, while you might not even get to 7,000 steps a day, you can take 15 minutes here and there to get your heart rate up a little. Try a 15-minute IMR to get your blood pumping, your muscles moving and give your brain a boost.


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