Walking 10,000 steps a day is a good baseline to help you stay fit, but it isn't the one-size-fits-all goal you might think.
Fitness trackers such as Fitbit use the number as a default goal, but fitness experts suggest tailoring a step goal to an individual. Researchers traced the origins of the 10,000-step practice to a marketing gimmick from the 1960s and suggested some people don't greatly benefit from walking so much.
Harley Pasternak, a celebrity personal trainer who works with Fitbit, sets the goal of at least 10,000 steps for his clients. He explained in an email to USA TODAY that the step requirement, if it includes 30 minutes at a moderate intensity, satisfies guidelines for exercise set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week.
“I recommend to strive for 14,000 if you’re trying to lose weight,” he said.
Pasternak cautioned that the suggestion varies based on lifestyle, and for some people, setting a lower goal would be ideal.
10,000 steps was 'a marketing tool'
A Harvard study of nearly 17,000 women ages 66 to 78 found that those who walked 7,500 steps or more had the lowest mortality rate.
Even women who walked 4,400 steps had a lower mortality rate than those who were the least active and walked only about 2,000 steps. There were few, if any, additional benefits for the women who walked more than 7,500 steps.
I-Min Lee, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and the lead researcher in the study, told USA TODAY the 10,000-steps-a-day recommendation was developed in the 1960s by early pedometer makers.
"It got started as a marketing tool for a Japanese company," Lee said, referring to a Japanese pedometer released in 1965 called the "10,000 steps meter." She said there haven't been any scientific studies backing up that number. Asked why it became standard, she explained simply, "It's an easy number to remember."