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There is little doubt that sedentary behavior is bad for your health. Many people claim that “sitting is the new smoking,” even though the two are not really comparable. Smoking is orders of magnitude worse than being sedentary, and given the choice, people should opt to do neither.

The interesting thing is that increasing your level of physical activity results in health benefits regardless of what your baseline step count is. In one Canadian study, diabetics were randomized to usual care, or an exercise prescription given to them by their physicians. The intervention group improved their daily step count from around 5,000 steps per day to about 6,200 steps per day. While the increase was less then what researchers hoped for, it still resulted in improvements in sugar control. Another study found that women enrolled in a walking program for 24 weeks reduced their blood pressure by 11 points; even though they only increased their step counts to about 9000 steps per day. In yet another study, a weekly physical education class was able to increase daily step counts in menopausal women and resulted in improvements of their cholesterol profile even though they too were slightly shy of 10,000 steps per day.

So where did this notion of 10,000 steps per day come from?

In 1965, Japanese company Yamasa Toki introduced their new step-counter, which they called Manpo-Kei. This translated into “10,000 steps meter” and they marketed their device with the slogan, “Let’s walk 10,000 steps a day.” Japanese walking clubs were fairly popular at that time and the idea of a 10,000-step target seems to have caught on because the slogan was catchy and people tend to like nice round numbers. The rest, as they say, is history.

The idea of 10,000 steps per day may have originally been a marketing slogan, but it does seem to be roughly useful. A sedentary but otherwise healthy person who does not exercise regularly might take about 6000-7000 steps per day in the course of their normal every day tasks. This is a rough average and it obviously varies from person to person, but is a useful estimate for our purposes. Now, a 30-minute walk will generally involve about 3000-4000 steps, depending on a person’s stride. So if you take a sedentary person, and get them to add 30 minutes of walking to the their daily routine, they will likely get to around 10,000 steps.

Source: 10,000 Steps: Myth Or Fact?

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