“Given what we know about the health benefits of physical activity, it should be mandatory to get a doctor’s permission NOT to exercise.” Per-Olaf Astrand, MD, Author of Textbook of Work Physiology and one of the founding fathers of exercise physiology
There is growing evidence that 10,000 steps a day is an amount of physical activity that is associated with indicators of good health. For instance, individuals who accumulate at least this amount of activity have less body fat and lower blood pressure than their less active counterparts (1).
- A Stanford University study (2007) looked at pedometer users from 26 different studies with an average training period of 18-weeks. The number of subjects totaled 2767 with a mean age of 49 and 85% were women. Bravata and colleagues (2) reported that pedometer users increased their physical activity by 26.9% over baseline. An important predictor of increased physical activity was having a step goal such as 10,000 steps per day. When data from all studies were combined, pedometer users significantly decreased their body mass index by 0.38 and significantly decreased their systolic blood pressure by 3.8 mm Hg.
- The American Heart Association has used the 10,000 steps metric as a guideline to follow for improving health and decreasing risk of heart disease. The Surgeon General has also recommended using 10,000 steps a day to accumulate 30 minutes of activity most days of the week. It should be enough to reduce your risk for disease and help you lead a longer, healthier life. The benefits are many: lower BMI, reduced waist size, increased energy, and less risk for Type II diabetes and heart disease.
- The Global Corporate Challenge (GCC) looked at 60,000 workers in 55 countries who had goals to walk 10,000 steps every day for eight months. At the end of the challenge, 67% of participants reported an increase in fitness and energy levels and participants lost an average of 10 pounds each. After four months of taking part in the study, the number of GCC participants with high blood pressure was reduced by 34%, while waist size was reduced by an average of two inches. They also reduced risk factors for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
- Krogh-Madsen and colleagues looked at activity levels using pedometers in healthy, young men and found going from 10,000 steps a day down to 1,300 steps a day lowered aerobic capacity by 7% and reduced insulin sensitivity by 17% compared to a control group in just two weeks (3).
- A pedometer study of an Old Order Amish community showed that the average man recorded 18,000 steps per day while the average woman reached 14,000 steps per day, and it turns out the Amish have one of the lowest rates of overweight and obesity of any community in North America.
Bonus: When you’re looking to increase your volume of walking, two thousand steps seemed to be the magic number. Research from the journal Lancet showed that for every 2,000 steps a day one participant tended to walk on average compared to another, they enjoyed a 10% lower rate of heart problems by the end of the year. During the study year, there was an additional 8% lower risk of heart disease for every 2,000 steps walked a day.
1. Tudor-Locke C, Ainsworth BE, Whitt MC, et al. (2001). The relationship between pedometer-determined ambulatory activity and body composition variables. Int. J Obesity 25: 1571-1578.
2. Bravata DM, Smith-Spangler C, et. al. (2007). Using Pedometers to Increase Physical Activity and Improve Health. JAMA. 298(19):2296-2304.
3. Krogh-Madsen R, Thyfault JP, Broholm C, Mortensen OH, Olsen RH, Mounier R, Plomgaard P, van Hall G, Booth FW, Pedersen BK (2009). A 2-wk reduction of ambulatory activity attenuates peripheral insulin sensitivity. J Appl Physiology doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.00977