Did you take your 10,000 steps today?
If not, don’t sweat it. The idea that walking 10K steps a day is crucial to your wellness is the latest piece of much-hyped health advice to be proven bogus.
Remember the dark days of killer eggs – those little heart attacks in a shell? Oops, never mind, it turns out eggs are OK in moderation. How about those ominous warnings that failing to floss your teeth puts you at risk of heart disease? It took a curious newspaper reporter about three days to confirm that there is no scientific proof for that claim.
As for the “wisdom” that taking 10,000 steps a day can help ensure a longer, healthier life, that claim has been traced back to a decades-old Japanese marketing campaign for a pedometer. To this day, 10K is the factory setting for most pedometers. Walk 10K had never been scientifically tested. Until now.
Researchers at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital recently completed a study of activity and longevity in a group of 17,000 women with an average age of 72. The participants all wore devices that tracked their daily step count. The result: women who took at least 4,000 steps a day saw an increase in longevity. To be precise, those who averaged 4,400 steps a day were 40% less likely to die during the study’s four-year follow-up period than participants who logged just 2,700 steps.
But get this. The longevity benefit peaked out at 7,500 steps a day.
While there is little dispute that even a small amount of exercise supports nearly every aspect of our health, the Brigham and Women’s team was careful to note that their study did not measure such quality of life benefits of walking, such as memory and cognitive function.
The study’s authors also note that their project tracked only the participants’ walking steps. It is highly likely that the women who took more steps were also engaged in other activities that exercise both body and mind, such as swimming, biking, and gardening, according to the researchers. So, it’s hard to say exactly how much credit those 4,400 steps should get for extending their lives.
In addition to freeing us from the tyranny of the 10K pedometer reading, the study offers yet another reminder that exercise and activity, in even its lightest form, truly is vital to our health and well-being, particularly as we age.
So, get up tomorrow morning and eat a couple of scrambled eggs. Skip the flossing, and jump right into whatever activity gets your body, mind and passion moving.