10,000 steps a day’ is often touted as popular culture’s answer to fitness. With the arrival of the ‘cool’ fitness bands, keeping a track of how much you cover in one day has become quite easy. However, it turns out that this figure has originated not from any study or research but a Japanese marketing commercial in the mid ’60s. To capitalise the immense popularity garnered by the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, a company called, Yamasa, introduced the world’s first wearable step-counter. It was named manpo-kei, which translates as “10,000-step meter”.
Since the average Japanese person took between 3,500 and 5,000 steps a day at that time, a research team at Kyushu University of Health and Welfare concluded that if people were to walk 10,000 steps they would decrease their risk of coronary diseases.
While several studies have been conducted since then to verify this data, they end up being in support of it as they simply compare people who have taken 10,000 steps to people with far lesser 3,000 to 5,000 steps. Understandably, the measure of their calories burned, blood pressure and blood glucose levels are better for the ones who walk more. However, studies with comparable figures like 12,000 or 8,000 have not been conducted yet.
Taking 10,000 steps a day also presents a problem for the elderly or those suffering from Type-2 diabetes. A rapid jump to 10,000 steps for those with a sedentary lifestyle can have adverse effects. Also, taking 10,000 steps a day presents a level of uncertainty of how much is enough. While walking fast and getting an increased heart rate helps to burn calories, the intensity of the walk may vary for everyone. There is no guideline on how fast you should walk to stay healthy.