HealthStacy M. Brown

Health Experts Debate ‘Need’ for Daily 10,000-Step Exercise Regiment

From pedometers to the fitness tracking band and Fitbit and cellphones, Americans appear to be obsessed with their health and monitoring their daily steps counts as a surefire way of determining if you’re healthy.

Many health buffs have set a goal of achieving at least 10,000 steps each day, based on theories that the number represents a benchmark leading to a better quality of life.

However, a recent report noted that adhering to the 10,000 steps rule remains something rooted in mere coincidence and lacks the support of medical research.

“According to Dr. I-Min Lee, a professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and an expert on step counts and health, the 10,000-steps target became popular in Japan in the 1960s,” reported Gretchen Reynolds of the New York Times.

“A clockmaker, hoping to capitalize on interest in fitness after the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, mass-produced a pedometer with a name that, when written in Japanese characters, resembled a walking man. It also translated as ‘10,000-steps meter,’ creating a walking aim that, through the decades, somehow became embedded in our global consciousness — and fitness trackers.”

Dr. Lee’s study concluded that women in their 70s who managed as few as 4,400 steps a day reduced their risk of premature death by about 40 percent, compared to those with 2,700 or fewer steps.

“The risk of early death continued to drop among the women walking more than 5,000 steps a day but benefits plateaued at about 7,500 daily steps,” Dr. Lee found, according to the New York Times report.

Still, today’s science continues to insist that everyone needs 10,000 steps each day, or five miles, for good health and potential longevity.

“Daily steps have a whole host of health benefits like lowering the risk of high blood pressure or high cholesterol, strengthening your bones and muscles, burning calories and elevating your mood,” Dr. Pouya Shafipour, a physician with Paloma Health, told the Informer.

“The number of steps accumulated is more important than the intensity of the steps taken. Really, anything is better than sitting as it relates to the longevity of life,” Dr. Shafipour asserted.

So, do you need 10,000 steps?

“The short answer is no,” insisted Chris Zehnder, the founder of Counter-Fitness.

“The CDC recommendations for adult physical activity is 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity. So, for example, walking is a moderate-intensity activity, or people can do 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity activity,” Zehnder found.

“More important and often overlooked is that many benefits are not realized from physical activity until you hit more vigorous levels of intensity,” Zehnder said. “For example, bone formation typically requires an intensity level of 75 to 85 percent of your maximum. So, rather than using a steps per day metric as your exercise goal, it would be prudent to create a plan that will have results specific to the needs of your body.”

Lizzie May, a certified fitness trainer and consultant for Mom Loves Best, observed that the ability to reach 10,000 steps comes down to lifestyle choices.

“For example, I worked in a hot climate and owned a scooter to transport me from point A to B. I rarely walked,” May explained.

“I opted to drive everywhere because of the heat and I would be sitting all day working. As a result, even a workout in the gym would only accumulate 500 steps. I was shocked when I used a smartwatch and tracked only 2,500 steps per day. To increase my daily activity, I would need to schedule a time to walk for 30-60 minutes,” May said.

Instead, May purchased a bicycle and said she relies solely on cycling or walking to get around.

“My commuting time has been swapped with low-intensity movement,” May said. “That made a massive difference to my overall energy expenditure for the day. Although my fitness tracker does not convert steps from my time spent cycling, I quickly reached 8,000 to10,000 steps per day.”

Stacy M. Brown

I’ve worked for the Daily News of Los Angeles, the L.A. Times, Gannet and the Times-Tribune and have contributed to the Pocono Record, the New York Post and the New York Times. Television news opportunities have included: NBC, MSNBC, Scarborough Country, the Abrams Report, Today, Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, Imus in the Morning and Anderson Cooper 360. Radio programs like the Wendy Williams Experience, Tom Joyner Morning Show and the Howard Stern Show have also provided me the chance to share my views.

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