So you've bought a Fitbit (or a Jawbone, or a Withings, or whatever). You've added walking to your daily routine. Finally, after weeks, maybe months, of carving out the time and working up the willpower you've, at last, found yourself consistently reaching 10,000 steps per day. "Victory!", you say to yourself.
But not so fast. You overhear your friend discussing a new study about how 15,000 steps is the new gold standard for maintaining cardiovascular fitness. You slowly feel your healthy world crack open and hear the quiet taunt of the living room couch prophesy your return to an era of Netflix binge-watching and Doritos.
So is this new study legit and do we really have to walk 15,000 a day to stay fit? In this new chapter of physiological scholarship there's both good news and bad news; so let's get into it, shall we?
The Bad News
A new study conducted in May of 2017, followed a group of Glaswegian mail carriers and produced results that clearly showed that mail workers who walked an average of 15,000 steps were in significantly better shape than those who walked less or who were sedentary. This doesn't mean that walking 10,000 steps is bad or that taking 15,000 steps is directly resulting in good health; however, it does mean there is a clear correlation between 15,000 steps and having a slim waistline and a healthier heart.
The Good News
According to a 2004 study conducted by the Walking Behavior Laboratory at Pennington Biomedical Research Center to try and figure out what the data on your pedometer really means, the trend of taking 10,000 steps for the good of overall health seems to have originated from a 1960s marketing campaign used to sell a Japanese pedometer called the "manpo-kei," which translates to "10,000 steps meter".
So what does this mean for our healthy habits? It means that studies surrounding the correlation between step count and physical health are still in their infancy. While it's very clear that individuals who are physically active tend to be much healthier than those who live sedentary lifestyles, most of us could reasonably assume this without a study confirming it.
10,000 is not a magic number that guarantees wellness
15,000 steps sound like a safer bet, but there's still loads more research to be done in this area. This may sound like bad news, but what it really means is that there are many different ways to improve your health and to increase the number of steps you take is only one of them. Good health is not a one size fits all endeavor. Some of us may need to lift more weights, others may need to walk a bit more often, and most of us definitely could use a nutritional overhaul. The important thing is to take things slow, be consistent, and to create a game that you can win. If that means aiming for 10,000 steps, that's great; but if 5,000 steps allow you to add in some weight lifting or some yoga, even better. Take your time and figure out the most effective way to be active. Don't worry about the magic bullets and settle into the long game. It's more fun anyway.