If Not 10,000, How Many Steps Should We Be Walking Each Day?

The 10,000-step rule is completely arbitrary, writes journalist Tanner Garrity at InsideHook. There is zero science behind it. The figure was plucked from the air by a Japanese electronics company trying to sell a new pedometer in the 1960s.

In the mid-1960s, a a Japanese watch company called Yamasa Clock debuted the figure that has been associated with daily step-counts, activity meters and modern wearables like Fitbit and Apple Watch ever since. The young brand’s marketing team named their pedometer Manpo-kei, which translates to “10,000 steps meter.” Something about the number sounded right: it was large enough to feel like a goal, but small enough to feel like an achievable one for the average adult. But Yamasa’s motive was even less scientific than that. The Japanese character for 10,000 somewhat a resembles a gentleman out for a brisk stroll: 万.

5,000-8,000 steps a day seems to be a more scientifically justified goal.

Even knowing all this, I try to do 10,000 steps a day because why not. Often I do not hit that goal. My hard goal is 7,500 steps a day. I’ve done at least that every day since we got back from Africa 11 months ago.

Says Garrity:

Most of all, remember to enjoy the steps you do take. Last week, The New York Times asked New Yorkers to share “the things they achingly miss” during quarantine. I long for my daily constitutional from InsideHook’s office in Midtown to the lower reaches of Central Park. The Heckscher Ballfields are down there and I like to stop and watch the midday games, which are inexplicably comprised of coeds in their mid-20s and guys who look like they taught at NYU in the ’90s. It was going to be my job this spring to find out how they all know each other. I miss scrambling over the schist, knowing the bench that gets the most sun, dodging selfies. It’s admirable to try to improve your physical conditioning each day with thousands of steps — just remember to leave a few hundred or so for the soul.

Mitch Wagner @MitchWagner