Counting the number of steps we take has become a ritual for many using pedometer apps or fitness trackers. The consensus is to aim for 10,000 steps a day. But recently Dr Greg Hager, a professor of computer science at Johns Hopkins University in the U.S. revealed that while this is a good start to get people moving, it isn't based on science. In fact, as he told the American Association for the Advancement of Science the origin can be traced to Japan in the Sixties when an athletic company released a pedometer called manpo-kei (translated as the 10,000 step meter).
The company apparently chose this figure after research at Kyushu University of Health and Welfare suggested that if people increased their daily step count to 10,000 they would be healthier and leaner. Dr Hager was unable to trace the study.
'If a rule such as 10,000 steps helps get people active then that’s great, but there's no evidence to say if you take 10,000 steps you'll be protected from x, y or z,' says Professor Mark Batt, who is a consultant in sport and exercise medicine at the University of Nottingham. 'We all have different thresholds and physical activity.' Researchers have suggested it's more helpful to
emphasise what the lowest number of steps you can get away with is as below this indicates a sedentary lifestyle - they estimate this to be less than 5,000 steps.
But again, 'it is important that any estimate not be overstated, but instead serve as guiding value, rather than a prescriptive one.’ The bottom line: Rather than focus on counting steps, ensure you get 150 minutes of exercise a week.