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Healthy myth: do you need to go 10 000 steps per day


A source: Air force

We've heard it over and over again: you need to take 10 steps a day to feel healthy and fit. However, some of the research findings may surprise you, wrote Claudia Hammond for Air force.

Photo: Shutterstock

Many of us count how much we have walked in a day - using smart watches, pedometers, mobile applications in smartphones. We rejoice when the figure of 10 steps is reached - well, it's important, after all! The app I use explodes on the screen with green confetti, congratulating me.

It also captures “strikes” - this is when I manage to produce the norm of 10 steps for a whole week. How often does this happen? I'll answer honestly: rarely.

Of course, the accuracy of some pedometers is debatable. It is clear that they count rather roughly and do not take into account the peculiarities of your movements. For example, if you are running, the number of steps will be the same as when waddling, although the difference in health benefits is significant.

However, pedometers give you a general idea of ​​how active you were during the day.

If you are going to take steps, the quantity that you have determined for yourself is important. Most recorders, by default, offer you 10 000 steps per day as such a goal.

This figure is so widely known that it is logical to assume that it was born as a result of many years of research, when scientists fought over what is the optimal number of steps per day for your health - 8000, 10, or maybe 000.

In fact, no such studies have been conducted.

The magical number 10 was born in 000, before the Tokyo Olympics, during the then marketing campaign. A Japanese firm began selling a pedometer called Manpo-kei: “man” means “1964,” “po” means “steps,” and “kei” means “counter.”

"Manpo-kei" turned out to be very popular, and the number 10 stuck in people's heads.

On the subject: Forget 10 000 steps: there is a better way to keep fit

Since then, there have been studies comparing the benefits of walking 5000 and 10 steps a day. Unsurprisingly, the higher number won.

However, until recently, the effectiveness of the number of steps in the range between five and ten thousand has not been studied. Even now, this is not comprehensively tested on adults.

A recent study by Harvard School of Medicine professor Yimin Lee and her colleagues focused on a group of more than 16 000 women over the age of 70. Scientists tried to compare the number of steps taken during the day with the likelihood of death from any cause. Each of the women spent a week with a wearable device recording her movements.

The researchers then paused for a long time - about four years and three months. By that time, 504 women from those who took part in the experiment had died.

What do you think, how many steps a day went by those who were still alive? Those same magic ten thousand?

It turned out that the average number of steps these women took daily was 5500, and even a small increase in this figure mattered. For example, women who took more than 4000 steps a day were far more likely to die than those who took 2700.

Surprisingly, such a small difference could have such serious consequences for life expectancy.

By following this logic, you might assume that the more steps you take per day, the better. For a certain range of steps, this was true - but only up to 7500 per day, after which the benefits ceased to grow.

Any addition of steps after this figure no longer affected life expectancy.

Of course, one of the shortcomings of this study is that we cannot be sure that the steps may have preceded the disease from which one or another participant in the experiment died.

The study included women who were healthy enough to go out and walk on their own. Of course, scientists previously asked them how healthy they feel.

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But some of the participants, although they were able to walk, were not too far away. In other words, they walked fewer steps then, because they were no longer healthy, and in their case, the difference in the number of steps did not matter.

Perhaps, the scientists suggested, for this age group, 7500 steps is enough. Although it is also possible that adding the number of steps would give the body additional protection.

In addition, a higher number of steps could only indicate a more active lifestyle that the participants led for many years, and this was what helped them live longer.

That is why it is difficult to determine exactly how many steps are more beneficial to health and how many should be added to your daily figure.

The question arises regarding the optimal number of steps and from the point of view of psychology. The goal of "ten thousand every day" can seem elusive, so many will simply give up on it.

Constantly, day after day, falling short of this goal, you can despair. One study of British teenagers found that at first 13-14 year olds enjoyed fighting 10 steps every day, but they soon realized how difficult it was to do it regularly and began to complain about the unfairness of the task.

I conducted my own psychological experiment - I changed the required number of steps in the mobile application to 9000.

I tried to fool myself by walking around the house when I didn’t carry my smartphone with me for the remaining thousand. But really, I just wanted to reassure myself that I could do the step plan more often.

To inspire usually sedentary people to take more steps, it may be psychologically more correct to use lower goals.

The trouble is that the tense calculation of each step robs us of the pleasure of walking.

Jordan Atkin, a psychologist at Duke University (USA), found that people who track how many steps they walk actually walk longer and further, but they like it less. They say it looks like work.

When the researchers checked their level of satisfaction with life at the end of the day, it was lower than those who simply walked without paying attention to the number of steps.

And even for the most physically well-prepared, counting steps can become counterproductive, because it can give them a false signal: everything, the goal has been achieved, you can no longer try.

What is the conclusion from all that has been said? Count your steps if you feel it motivates you, but remember, there is nothing magical about 10.

Set yourself a goal that suits you personally. It may be more than ten thousand, or it may be less. Or you decide to throw away your pedometer altogether and feel great afterwards!

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