The key to being healthy is to avoid being sedentary
Research from Oregon State University suggests that whilst the popular goal of 10,000 steps a day is a nice number to aim for you shouldn’t be disheartened if you cannot manage that many as you can still reap the benefits of a smaller number of daily steps.
Although widely regarded as a good goal for daily activity the source of the number 10,000 seems to be from the first commercial pedometer that was marketed to a Japanese market in the wake of the Tokyo Olympics in 1964 as manpo-kei, which literally translates to “10,000 steps meter”.
Tudor-Locke, Schuna et. al. analysed accelerometer data from 3,388 participants in a national health and nutrition study. They determined that amongst men, with a median of 12,334 steps, only the top fifth managed this goal whilst amongst women the top fifth only managed a median of 9,824 steps.
An average American will take somewhere between 5,000 and 7,000 steps per day and limiting time spent at rest can improve readings for a variety of health markers such as cholesterol. Researchers advise that more steps are better and faster steps are better. A target of 150 minutes a week at a cadence of more than 100 steps per minute is a good goal to aim for.
Another question researchers are keen to answer is “Does it make a difference how you spread your activity throughout the day?” The current theory is that there is a fairly weak relationship between periods of vigorous activity (activity with a cadence of over 100 steps per minute) and periods of rest (minutes where no steps were measured). Packing your exercise into two to three hours then spending the rest of your day at rest is unlikely to mean the exercise time yields no benefit.
Averaging more than 10,000 steps per day tends to mean you spend around 150 minutes per week on average to vigorous activities. However, one needs to be wary of using step counting as a way of determining whether or not someone is meeting the current guidelines that state that aerobic (vigorous) exercise should be accrued in bursts of at least 10 minutes.
In the future sequencing of an individuals genome coupled with wearable activity monitoring could pave the way towards personalised activity plans – and a way to ensure that one sticks to it.