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Are 10,000 steps Fit or Fad?    

photo of woman wearing pink sports shoes walkingWe stay away from red meat because it causes cancer (or does it?) and so do microwaves (or do they?).  Brushing our teeth with activated charcoal?  Check! Red wine is good for our hearts so we drink a glass (okay, maybe two!) every night with our “clean foods” for dinner.  Eggs raise our cholesterol so our lives have become omelet and souffle free…   Speaking of eggs… jade egg, anyone?  Actually, we’ll let you keep that one a secret!

And how about the 10-minute workout? It’s all so exhausting!  Don’t you wish there was a way to keep track of what’s good and bad for our long-term health that’s as easy as it is to track 10,000 steps?  Wait, is 10,000 steps still a thing?

Let’s take a deeper dive on this one because at least 10,000 steps can’t be bad for you. To understand the 10,000 step concept we need to understand where it came from. You’ll be surprised to learn that this idea dates back to the 1960s with the introduction of the Japanese pedometer called the Manpo-kei (translated literally as 10,000 steps meter).  Dr. Yoshiro Hatan began marketing his pedometer as a way for people to maintain a healthy body after his country started to see a rise in obesity. He found that many Japanese were walking only about 3,500-5,000 steps a day and thought just by doubling the number to 10,000 they would burn enough calories to either maintain or lose weight.


Manpo-Meter ad from the 1965


Fifty plus years later the idea still lingers and is even programmed into most fitness trackers.  And, speaking of fitness trackers, you cannot wonder about the validity of 10,000 steps without wondering about the accuracy of the trackers themselves.  Lisa Cadmus-Bertram, Assistant Professor of Kinesiology & Epidemiology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison says “They are accurate enough to be useful for most people and for most purposes.”  With that knowledge, we can feel reasonably sure that marching off those last few steps before bed is getting us to our step goal but still, is it doing anything for our bodies?

No studies have popped up yet saying that walking is NOT good for us.  The Mayo Clinic lists plenty of benefits like maintaining a healthy weight, strengthening our bones and muscles, improving balance and coordination as well as having a great effect on our mood.  Walking also prevents and manages a variety of conditions including heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.  However, studies have found that we are going to get much more benefit out of walking 10,000 steps – or, for that matter, any steps! – if they’re walked at a brisk pace instead of walking in place in front of our favorite TV show just to achieve a goal.

woman girl silhouette jogger

Check your pace if you’re worried that your 10,000 steps a day aren’t a benefit!

So, it comes down to quality, not just quantity!  To consider our 10,000 steps as truly active, one study claims to show that 100 steps per minute should be our targeted pace.  One hundred thirty steps per minute would qualify as vigorous walking. And, if you crank the pace up to 140 per minute you’ll be jogging.  Basically, if you want those steps to count, then pick up the pace!  But, like any health trend, don’t get obsessed over tracking numbers. Instead, focus on being more active. That idea is definitely not a fad. Neither are the 10,000 steps – they really are good for you! But don’t get hung up on the number; 9,999 will work just fine. Just get up and out on your way!

As for those other trends?  It’s probably best to take some advice with a grain of salt and drink red wine, not because it might be good for you, but because you love it.  See you in the next blog!

Deb Fries is a freelance designer and writer and worked for Julianna Rae in graphics and customer service, she now writes lifestyle pieces for the blog at