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How many steps do we really need to take each day?

The Yamasa Clock and Instrument Company in 1965 introduced a pedometer called Manpo-kei, which in Japanese means “10,000 steps meter,” and thus was born the notion that we should each be taking that many steps daily to maintain good health. At least, that’s the way I-Min Lee, MBBS, MPH, ScD, puts it in a 2019 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Lee, who is an associate epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and her research team set out to discover whether that 10,000-step goal is truly the gold standard.

Tracking the movements of nearly 17,000 women with a mean age of 72, Lee’s team found that as few as 4,400 steps per day corresponded with significantly reduced mortality rates over a four-year period when compared with those who took about 2,700 steps.

Those mortality rates continued to decline as participants added to their daily walking, but they leveled off at around 7,500 steps.

Participants were generally healthier than average, and though the results held after the team adjusted for BMI, hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, and step intensity, Lee notes the study was observational and doesn’t prove causation. Still, she argues that it may help many folks get off the couch.

“These findings,” she concludes, “may serve as encouragement to the many sedentary individuals for whom 10,000 steps per day pose an unattainable goal.”

This article originally appeared as “Counting Steps” in the March 2022 issue of Experience Life.

Craig Cox
Craig Cox

Craig Cox is an Experience Life deputy editor who explores the joys and challenges of healthy aging.

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  1. When it comes to the necessary steps that one should take, I don’t think there’s one answer that fits every situation. Ultimately, it comes down to other factors such as personal goals.

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