This Is How Many Steps You Really Need to Get in Each Day, Study Says


With wearable health monitors more popular than ever, the goal of hitting the recommended 10,000 steps every day has become part of a routine for many. But that step count, which has been held as the standard for decades, may not actually be the number you need to be reaching. Instead, research from Harvard Medical School has shed light on how many steps you really need to get in each day, finding that the necessary count is likely much lower than you thought. Read on to see if you're on pace to stay healthy, and for more on other activities you should be mindful of, check out If You Can't Do This in 90 Seconds, Your Heart Is in Danger, Study Says.

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You may actually need less than half the number of steps currently recommended to stay healthy.

A study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine in 2019 compared the step patterns of 16,741 women over seven days. The results showed that getting in just 4,400 steps each day significantly lowers the risk of death in women, with more steps further decreasing the risk up until they hit 7,500 steps.

While some studies have found health benefits resulting from hitting the long-held goal of 10,000 steps each day, these latest findings challenge that decades-old belief. In fact, the idea appears to have been started by a popular Japanese step counter sold in the mid-1960s known as "Manpo-kei," which literally translates as "10,000 step meter," The Conversation reports. And for more ways to stay fit, check out Wearing This Can Help You Lose 10 Pounds Right Now, Study Finds.

Five thousand steps may be the minimum daily steps you can take to avoid health complications.
Shutterstock/Tom Wang

Other recent studies have shown that there seems to be a base minimum for daily movement. In a Feb. 2021 report, researchers at the University of Texas at Austin found that those who walk fewer than 5,000 steps a day were less able to metabolize fat the day following their inactivity.

This suggests that a buildup of body fat could lead to health complications, such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes due to a sedentary lifestyle, The Conversation reports. And for more on other health-conscious changes you can make, check out If You're Swallowing Your Medication With This, Stop Immediately.

But how you get those steps in matters, too.

While getting in ample movement as part of your routine is important, how you move matters too. The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that people do at least 150 minutes of "moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity" each week—which includes brisk walking, as well as gardening or biking slower than 10 miles per hour—or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity.

But other studies have found that lower intensity exercise done throughout the week can still have a cumulative impact on your health goals. This includes a Canadian study from 2016, which found that even getting halfway to the WHO's suggested 150-minute goal led to significant health benefits. And for more health news delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Changing a few routines can make it easier to hit your daily steps goal.

Fortunately, getting closer to hitting that daily step goal can usually be achieved with a few simple changes. Start by checking your current daily step average and aim to increase the count by 2,000, which can be achieved by walking to work or while running errands, Lindsay Bottoms, PhD, from the University of Hertfordshire in the U.K., wrote for The Conversation.

She also recommends inviting friends to join you on a walk instead of at a bar or café, as well as making a point to stand up and move around at many points throughout the day if you're sitting at a desk. And for more on how you can keep an eye on your health, check out If You're Taking This OTC Medicine More Than Twice a Week, See a Doctor.