This is about a recent article entitled ‘Why 7,000 steps a day is the new 10,000 a day’.
A piece like this seems to pop up every 6 months or so, suggesting a revised number of steps we should be aiming for since the day 10,000 got us all off our seats and interested in smart watches. It’s very confusing for to decipher, so today I’m going to try and ‘walk’ you through the facts…
Is 10k-a-day a myth?
10,000 steps per day is a fairly universal target used by all popular smartwatches and tracking devices so you’d be forgiven for thinking that it must be backed by lots of science. As the article suggests the 10,000 steps per day goal did indeed originate from a Japanese marketing campaign for a pedometer rather than any solid science.
Is 7k the new 10k?
After dispelling the 10,000 step myth, the article goes on to quote a recent large study from the University of Massachusetts which found that middle aged adults who did at least 7,000 steps per day had a 50 to 70% lower risk of dying during the study period compared with those taking fewer that 7,000.
So, what’s the magic number?
SPOILER ALERT: there is no magic number, it doesn’t make sense for there to be.
If I do 6,999 steps am I considerably more unhealthy that if I do 7,000, no. The benefits accrue from the outset and follow what is know as curve-linear pattern. Lets take the graph below to explain this, which is from one of the most commonly cited papers in exercise science.
It shows how the duration of daily activity effects risk of mortality. The blue line is ‘vigorous exercise’ which is powerwalking, running and cycling and shows a textbook curve-linear response. Lots of benefit from the first minute which increases the more you do until starting to level off at around 40 minutes. Exercising longer than 50-60 minutes is unlikely to provide any additional health benefits.
The green line is ‘moderate intensity’ exercise like steps, again you can see that benefits begin from the first minute and build the more you do. There’s an element of this curve-linear response where you get diminishing returns for your efforts but nowhere near to the extent of vigorous exercise. There certainly isn’t a magic number to aim for above or below which you get significantly more or less benefit.
Your next steps:
It’s great to have a step target as it encourages you to increase your daily movement, however, make sure it’s personal. Work with your Cardiac Coach to set a challenging but achievable target to help you do more and accrue benefits at any level.
Oh, and next time you see an article claiming they’ve found the new magic step target, walk away, fast!
My podcast playlist: “Eat Beetroot” , by Michael Moseley
In this episode, Michael explores the extraordinary effects of beetroot on your body and brain – from helping lower blood pressure to keeping your brain healthy as you age. He speaks to Professor Andy Jones from the University of Exeter who has found that simply drinking a shot of beetroot juice can improve your endurance during intense exercise by 16%, and finds out why these bright red jewels can have such significant benefits on your heart, your muscles and your brain.