10,000 Steps a Day: A Marketing Myth

It is said that you should walk 10,000 steps a day to improve your health, but this is a false belief that originates from a marketing campaign in the 1960s.

Person climbing stairs

With the smartwatch craze, it is common for people to monitor the number of daily steps and set goals. Photo: Unsplash

LatinAmerican Post | María Fernanda Ramírez Ramos

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Leer en español: 10.000 pasos al día: el mito que nació en el marketing 

For many years, a popular belief has held that walking 10,000 steps a day is optimal for health and helps maintaining a proper weight. With the smartwatch fever, it is common for people to monitor the number of daily steps and set goals.

However, thinking that 10,000 steps is healthy is not entirely true. It is a myth that originates from an advertising campaign that took place in 1964, after the Tokyo Olympics. It was in this country, Japan, where the first pedometers or step counters were developed. A company called Yamasa Tokei created Manpo-kei, one of the most successful commercial pedometers. In its advertising campaign, the figure of 10,000 daily steps was indicated. Its launch and publicity was so popular that this figure remained in the collective imagination.

Also read: Nine Infusions To Improve Your Physical And Mental Health

However, this is not to say that walking has no health benefits. In fact, it has a significant positive impact both physically and emotionally. The Arthritis Foundation, dedicated to exploring cures for arthritis, America's # 1 cause of disability, notes that walking improves circulation, sleep, and breathing, helps release endorphins, and strengthens bones, muscles, and joints, promotes longevity, and lowers the risk of Alzheimer's.

The scientific journal International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity published in 2020 an article in which it indicates that walking helps reduce the risk of mortality from all causes, especially cardiovascular disease, and that the health benefits of this activity are present below 10,000 steps per day.

In fact, research conducted at Harvard University, led by researcher I-Min Lee, found that women in their 70s who walk an average of 4,400 daily steps reduce their risk of having an untimely death. However, the expert assures that an optimal number of steps to achieve the benefits of walking ranges between 7,500 and 8,000 daily steps.

On the other hand, research from the University of Luxembourg, which measured the impact of recreational exposure to nature on mood and responses to stress, found that walking in the middle of nature helps reduce cortisol levels in highly stressful situations. While exercising or viewing nature images in isolation had a positive effect, the combination of these two activities achieves an effect with greater impact. Hence the importance of cities preserving natural spaces and green areas for their citizens, such as parks or ecological trails.

However, it must be remembered that walking is not the only measure to reduce the risk of mortality. It is also essential to maintain a healthy diet, control stress levels and avoid risk factors such as smoking or excessive alcohol consumption.

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