What You Didn’t Know About 10,000 Steps


As Fitbits and other pieces of wearable tech continue to grow in popularity, so does the recommended goal of 10,000 steps a day. But you, being the curious walker and thinker that you are, might be wondering where that number comes from and if it’s reliable.  

The 10,000 steps figure is a nice, round number that’s easy to remember, but it serves more as a guideline than a hard and fast requirement. In truth, the goal should be an active, balanced lifestyle. Personal goals and habits vary from person to person, but if the average person takes less than 3,000 steps, then a bump up to five figures likely means they’ve become more intentional about incorporating exercise into their daily routine.

The average person’s stride is between 2- 2 1/2 feet, so 10,000 steps add up to about 5 miles, a figure that provides a more practical picture of daily exercise.

Experts believe the number in question was first popularized after the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, when Dr. Yoshiro Hatano created a program that called for increasing and tracking steps using a pedometer, named “manpo-kei.” The term translates to “10,000 step meter.”  

Here are some simple ways to keep in mind when it comes to bumping up your daily step count.   

Be reasonable.

That means being realistic about what’s best and most sustainable for you personally. If you are normally sedentary and take less than 3,000 steps in a day, don’t jump straight to 10,000. It’s best to build your step count with a destination in mind. Think long-term progress, not short-term gain. Otherwise you may wake up the next day feeling sore and end up walking even less than you would normally. 

Multitask.

Unlike most exercises, walking can be combined with lots of other productive activities. Make a phone date with an old friend for an hour or set aside some alone time for you and your significant other. If you have a pet, they’d be happy to help increase your step count with some outdoor time. Cut back on the Amazon purchases and do some mall shopping. Even if you don’t buy anything, window-shopping will add steps to your daily count in bunches.

Wear comfortable shoes.

The easiest way to demotivate you from increasing your step count is discomfort. If you have a particular foot condition, make sure to accommodate it appropriately. Advancements in shoe technology have come a long way in the past 25 years, so your local running store should have answers to any questions you have, and will surely help you find the best pair of shoes for your personal needs.

Walk periodically.

Rather than setting up a designated hour or two in your day for walking, like you might for a fitness class or gym visit, be intentional about establishing shorter windows of time when you can get some extra walking done. Walks after meals, when you get home from work, on the weekends, and during family time are just a few examples.

Talk to your doctor or a physician.

There are all kinds of factors that can affect your desired step count including height, weight, medical history, and injury history. Walking, unlike activities such as running or lifting weights, isn’t likely to lead to injury, but there can be numerous explanations for discomfort.

Get creative!

Whether you live in the city or the suburbs, try to find some pleasant scenery to make your walks more enjoyable. Look for a neighborhood you can frequent or explore nearby trails. Beaches, downtown hotspots, nature walks, museums and zoos, or wooded thoroughfares are terrific locations to go for a stroll, so long as weather permits.  

So regardless of if you’re coming in right at 10,000 every day, falling woefully short or effortlessly sailing beyond manpo-kei, get to steppin!

About Zac Howard

Zac Howard is a writer on The Path Editorial Team. He is a graduate of Florida State University and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in magazine journalism at NYU. With his passion for lifting and dieting, Zac enjoys writing about all different kinds of exercise as well as keeping up with the latest news in the world of fitness. In addition to his contributions on The Path, he is a fitness beat writer for NYU Magazine. For more of his work, visit NYUMag.com.