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The standard number of daily steps seems to be 10,000 steps a day, but it didn’t come from science — and no one is exactly sure where it comes from.
Most probably, it is from the name of a pedometer that was sold in Japan in 1965, which was called Manpo-kei and translates to “10,000 steps meter” in English.
If you think back to ancestral humans — before farming was done — we were all hunter-gatherers, and getting food took effort. If hunting and gathering had been too taxing physically for our ancestors, well, we’d have evolved differently. Being able to move a lot also means being capable of moving to places with better food when needed. If this kind of movement also keeps us healthy, it’s an evolutionary win.
Among adults younger than 60, the more steps taken, the lower the mortality rate until reaching 8,000 to 10,000 steps per day. For those aged 60 and older, the health benefit plateaued around 6,000 to 8,000 steps per day.
Women in the US seem to average a little less than 5,000 steps a day, so many people are starting from a good place.
Data from a study was published in 2019 showed that among women ages 45 and older, those women who took 4,400 steps per day had significantly lower mortality than those with 2,700 steps per day. In fact, the more steps the women took, the lower the mortality rate until they reached 7,500 steps per day where the benefits leveled off. Interestingly, the speed of the steps didn’t matter, just the number of steps.
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