Ignore that Application; it's Possible that Walking 10,000 Steps Could Be Dangerous

There is a possibility that doing 10,000 steps each day, as recommended by various health applications and activity monitors, is doing more harm than good. Don’t put any stock in it.

In terms of how far we should walk, there is no universal answer that applies to all circumstances. It is determined by a variety of factors, including your age, weight, and overall health. The majority of us might stand to gain something positive by increasing the amount of walking we do.

However, why is that particular number so frequently used?

The idea that people should walk 10,000 steps every day to improve their health and lose weight began to gain traction in Japan more than half a century ago. In the years leading up to the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, pedometers quickly rose in popularity. During that time period, a Japanese business introduced a product that they named a “manpo-kei,” which translates to “10,000 step meter.” The phrase “manpo-kei” evolved into a company slogan that struck a chord with customers. Since then, walking 10,000 steps per day has become a standard measure of daily fitness and activity around the world.

As you can see, the objective that the vast majority of us have come to accept is not precisely founded on scientific evidence. However, it is a convenient round number that is not hard to keep in mind.

In his presentation at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Boston, Massachusetts, the previous year, Dr. Greg Hager from Johns Hopkins University in the United States stated that only a small number of the hundreds of thousands of healthcare apps currently available are based on scientific evidence. However, because of their widespread use, they are quite likely to have a significant effect on the health of the general populace. He was especially critical of apps and devices that challenged the user to take 10,000 steps every day.

“I know that some of you are probably wearing Fitbits or similar devices, and I bet that every once in a while it tells you that awesome little message that says ‘you got 10,000 steps today.’” However, is that the correct number for any of you who are currently present in this room? Who could say? Dr. Hager explained that it is simply a number that is now incorporated into the apps.

“Until we have apps based on evidence, you could be exacerbating the problem. Imagine for a moment if everybody felt they had to walk 10,000 steps, but they were not truly physically able to do just that; if you did so, you might end up causing yourself or someone else some kind of injury. This is not going to be helpful for you if you are of advanced age or if you have a physical disability.”

The difficulty with having global exercise goals is that they don’t take into account the varying levels of capability that exist across individuals. The typical American only takes about 5,000 steps per day, which is a substantial decrease from the recommended 10,000. Some people walk a lot further than that, so for them, ten thousand steps might not be much of a goal at all. However, if you exert too much force too soon, you run the risk of going beyond what is considered healthy.

So, what do the authoritative sources have to say?

That, however, is something that is very dependent on the official source that you consult. The United States Department of Health and Human Services advises engaging in aerobic activity for at least 150 minutes per week at a moderate intensity or for at least 75 minutes at a vigorous intensity. This is equivalent to approximately 7,000 to 8,000 steps taken every day. The National Obesity Forum in the United Kingdom recommends setting a goal of 7,000 to 10,000 steps per day. The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare says that to stay healthy, you should take 8,000 to 10,000 steps every day.

Walking, an activity that is frequently disregarded as a type of exercise, can help you improve your health, strengthen your stamina, and get rid of excess calories. In a general sense, the more active you are, the better off you will be. However, if you do not have a particularly active lifestyle, you should gradually build up your step count by adding a few extra steps every so often. Instead of aimlessly pursuing your goals, it is imperative that you pay attention to your body, consult with your physician, and use common sense.

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