Should You Really Be Walking 10,000 Steps Per Day?

Jun 12, 2024

The Lancet is an eminent journal of medical research and opinion. A study into the relationship between walking and longevity, headed up by Amanda Paluch of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, investigated the proposition that 10,000 steps per day leads to an increased life span.

This idea has been canvassed so many times in the past it has almost assumed mythical status. Ms. Paluch decided to put the theory to the test. The Lancet published their findings.

Research Findings

According to a recent report in The Globe and Mail: “Ms. Paluch and her colleagues pooled the results of 15 previous studies with nearly 50,000 participants on four continents. After a baseline measurement of daily step count, the researchers monitored national death records for an average of seven years to see who died and when.

As expected, the results confirmed that people who took more steps at the start of the study were less likely to die during the follow-up period. The most active quarter of the subjects, who took an average of 10,901 steps per day, were less than half as likely to die during the study as the least active quarter, who took 3,553 steps per day.”

Most Models Are Wrong, But Some Are Useful

The Globe and Mail article quoted the eminent British statistician George E.P. Box, who famously observed that while most models are wrong, some are useful.

One of the reasons that the 10,000-step model is useful is that, through the advent of the pedometer, it can be verified.

Verified yes, but only up to a point. As most professionals in the fitness industry would observe, and as The Globe and Mail reports:

Your body doesn’t care how many steps you take, only how much you elevate your heart rate and how long you keep it there.

A Step in the Right Direction: A Rule Worth Remembering

This is an eminently sensible interpretation of the data. A very fit 70-year-old could very well get away with 5,000 steps per day, so long as the majority of them were earned on a Stairmaster programmed to a high level of exertion.

Still, the 10,000 steps rule is worth remembering. It’s a simple, memorable target. And it can be used as a baseline anchor, against which to measure our daily fitness activities.

Or, as Alex Hutchinson – the author of Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance – and the writer responsible for The Globe and Mail story states: “As a rule of thumb, it remains useful.”

If you’re interested in keeping track of how many steps you take in a day there are a number of fitness tracker devices available to help you do just that and more. To find out about some of the best ones for 2022, click here. Walk on!

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