For years the manufacturers of smartwatches and quantifying bracelets have sold us that we had to walk 10,000 steps a day. The figure has already been burned into popular culture, but the curious thing is that they do not stop appearing studies that contradict the myth. Now it has risen again one of themand the recommended figure is quite different.
Who invented the 10,000 steps thing? In 1965, a Japanese company launched a pedometer called the Manpo-Kei. The translation of that name is “meter of 10,000 steps”, and according to Japanese researchersthe reason for choosing that number was because 10,000, 万, is similar to a man who walks. And suddenly everyone assumed that those 10,000 steps were the ideal daily amount to maintain a good physical activity.
The fact is that this number has become an urban legend, and most devices that monitor our physical activity —such as smart watches or activity bracelets— take it as a reference. Fortunately, in all or almost all it is possible to establish a custom number.
There are other theories. Science confirmed that the 10,000 steps had no foundation, and a study published in NEVER revealed that the optimal number of steps per day was around 8,000. From then on, the benefits were modest, so walking more and more doesn’t make much sense if you’re looking to optimize the benefits of taking a certain number of steps.
Now the good figure is 7,000 (for those over 60). Says a published meta-study in Lancet. There they grouped 15 studies that had been carried out between 1999 and 2018 and that had grouped more than 47,000 adults.
After analyzing the data, it was concluded that the risk of mortality was reduced by 50% in older adults who increased the number of daily steps from 3,000 to 7,000 steps. Taking 10,000 steps barely reduced that percentage of risk, although there were benefits (not many) if they walked twice as much.
If you are under 60, the ideal figure is around 8,000. The surprise is in those under 60 years of age: the risk drops significantly up to approximately 8,000 steps, but from there walking more seems even harmful. It is striking, because according to that study, we should not even consider walking more than that number: doing so slightly increases the risk of mortality instead of reducing it. Others, yes, assure that the key to take advantage of the ride is walk much faster.
The WHO does not count steps, but activity time. For the World Health Organization, steps don’t even seem like an adequate metric. In their recommendations what is taken into account is the time of physical activity, which varies according to age ranges.
Thus, it is said that adults from 18 to 64 years of age “moderate aerobic physical activities for at least 150 to 300 minutes or intense aerobic physical activities for at least 75 to 150 minutes” a week. Dedicating even more time is beneficial, they indicate, and they also recommend “muscle-strengthening activities for two or more days a week.” The curious thing is that this recommendation does not change much for those over 64 years of age.
Moving is good, but each person is a world. The truth is that walking has been shown on numerous occasions to be good for your health, and our often sedentary lives don’t help. These studies and these figures are, however, a reference without more. And one that has its dangers: can sink to those unable to achieve those goals and discourage them. Let each one make a tunic out of his cape, then. But if he does it by walking a bit, all the better.
Image | Thom Milkovic
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