The new age of fitness trackers is upon us with the Fitbit, Jawbone and the Nike Fuelband to name a few. These trackers can be fantastic motivation to those of us looking to incorporate more activity into our lives. In order to increase activity, most of these trackers encourage a step count of 10,000 steps per day. But where does this number come from?
An article in Live Science by Rachael Rettner discusses where this number originated. Pedometers sold in Japan around 1960 were marketed with the name “manpo-kei”, which translated means 10,000 steps. Essentially, this number is an estimate of the steps/day for a healthy adult. Luckily, research has been performed to determine the meaning of different levels of steps.
A study by Catrine Tudor-Locke & David Bassett Jr. (2004) looked at classification of pedometer-determined activity in healthy adults. The research determined that less than 5,000 steps/d was sedentary, 5,000-7,499 steps/d was low active and 7,500-9,999 steps/d was somewhat active. Equal to or greater than 10,000 steps/d marks active individuals and greater than 12,500 qualify highly active.
Fitness trackers and pedometers can be a great way to determine what category you are in and help give you goals to gradually build up activity level. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recommends participating in 150 minutes of moderate activity per week. This averages out to ~7,000-8,000 steps per day. The Japanese were right in their thinking that 10,000 steps/d can be a great goal.
Overall, increasing activity and steps in any facet will help with health and weight loss, but that doesn’t mean that you have to meet a certain level right away.
Tudor-Locke, C., Bassett Jr., D. (2004). How Many Steps/Day Are Enough? Preliminary Pedometer Indices for Public Health. Sports Medicine: 34(1), 1-8
Katherine Horner, RD, LD, NASM-CPT, CES
Surgical Weight Loss Dietitian and Exercise Specialist