MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota — For people who count their steps, the goal is typically 10,000 steps a day. But a new study is suggesting you may not need that many to get a health boost.
The study, led by I-Min Lee of Brigham and Women's Hospital, was published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine.
The study looked at more than 16,700 American women who were on average 72-years-old. It found that women who averaged 4,400 steps per day had a 41% lower rate of death during the follow-up period of about four years compared with women who averaged 2,700 steps. The benefits of walking more leveled off at 7,500 steps.
"There's other studies, not just this study, that talk about the fact that achieving less than 10,000 steps per day still confers health benefits. So yes, 10,000 steps, make it your goal if you want to but there's nothing wrong with saying, 'You know what, I'm going to shoot for 7,500 and if I hit that, great. Because I can almost guarantee you that there's going to be some health benefit to achieving even 7,500 steps," said Zachary Pope, a postdoctoral fellow within the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, Division of Epidemiology & Community Health.
So where did the target of 10,000 steps a day come from? The study says the number has limited scientific basis and likely derives from the trade name of a pedometer sold in 1965 by Yamasa Clock and Instrument Company in Japan called Manpo-kein, which translates to "10,000 steps meter" in Japanese.
Maria Williams Jones and David Jones of Minneapolis read an article on the study and said they'll still continue aiming for 10,000 steps a day.
"The study only measured longevity. It didn't measure mental acuity, osteoporosis, other things," David Jones said.
David France of Minneapolis said he walks at least 30,000 steps a day, saying, "It's a lot but I enjoy it and I enjoy the weather and we only get... about 100 days of good weather so I better enjoy all of it."
But for people who might be intimidated by a goal of 10,000 steps a day, Pope said the study is encouraging.
"Studies like this, they line up with the most recent physical activity guidelines for Americans which are simply saying, be less sedentary and just concentrate on being a little bit more active. Whatever goal that means for you, whether it's 10,000 steps, 6,000 steps 8,000 steps, that's fine because you're concentrating on your health and you're concentrating on goals that are obtainable for you," Pope said.
The study also looked at stepping intensity, meaning how fast or slow someone would walk. Results showed that step volume, rather than step intensity, may be more important in this population.
You can read the full study, here.