Many wearable devices track the number of steps a person takes each day and they are pre-programmed with a daily goal of 10,000 steps.
The origin of the 10,000-step goal may trace back to 1965 when a Japanese company began marketing a pedometer called Manpo-kei, which translates to “10,000 steps meter” in Japanese.
But in a new study, researchers found that 10,000 steps per day are not necessary for everyone.
For example, older women don’t need to walk that much to live longer.
The research was led by a team from Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
The study examined how many steps a day are associated with good health, particularly long-term health outcomes.
The team tested health outcomes over an average of more than four years for older women in the Women’s Health Study who had measured their steps for a full week.
Almost 18,000 women were asked to wear an ActiGraph GT3X+ accelerometer device—a research grade wearable—on their hips for seven consecutive days during all waking hours.
They found that taking as few as 4,400 steps per day was strongly linked to a lower risk of death compared to taking 2,700 steps per day.
They also found that risk of death continued to decrease with more steps taken but leveled off at around 7,500 steps per day.
This is much less than the 10,000 steps default goal in many wearables.
This is good news for many older people because taking 10,000 steps a day can sound daunting.
The finding shows that even a modest increase in steps taken is linked to much lower mortality in older women.
According to previous studies, the average number of steps taken by people in the U.S. is between 4,000 and 5,000 per day.
The research highlights the importance of being physically active in a healthy, long life.
Future work will test the effect in younger and diverse populations and see if the quality of life and risk of specific diseases can be influenced by increasing walking steps.
The lead author of the study is I-Min Lee, MBBS, ScD, an epidemiologist in the Division of Preventive Medicine at the Brigham.
The study was presented at the American College of Sports Medicine Annual Meeting and is published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
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