Do you really need 10,000 steps a day? New study says you can walk less

Do you try to get in 10,000 steps everyday? You might be able to set your sights a little lower, because a new report says you may not need to walk that much.

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Researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston recently conducted a study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, to explore the association between increased numbers of steps daily and lower mortality among older women.

To do so, they examined 16,741 women with a median age of 72. They tracked the number of steps the participants took each day for a week by equipping them with wearable devices. The team then followed the subjects for an average of about four years.

After analyzing the results, they found those who walked about 2,700 steps daily had the greatest risk of death. Those who walked modestly, or averaged about 4,400 steps daily, had a 41 percent lower risk of death. The authors said risk of death continued to decrease with more steps, but it leveled off around 7,500 steps.

"Taking 10,000 steps a day can sound daunting. But we find that even a modest increase in steps taken is tied to significantly lower mortality in older women," co-author I-Min Lee, said in a statement. "Our study adds to a growing understanding of the importance of physical activity for health, clarifies the number of steps related to lower mortality and amplifies the message: Step more — even a little more is helpful."

The team said the origin of the 10,000-step goal is unclear. However, they said it could date back to 1965 when a Japanese company began marketing a pedometer called Manpo-kei, which translates to “10,000 steps meter.”

They noted few studies have evaluated how many steps a day are actually linked with good health, and they believe their results can help adults determine the number of steps best suitable for them.

"Of course, no single study stands alone. But our work continues to make the case for the importance of physical activity," Lee said. "We hope these findings provide encouragement for individuals for whom 10,000 steps a day may seem unattainable."