June 18, 2019

No, You Don't Need 10,000 Steps

“In America, the conventional wisdom of how to live healthily is full of axioms that long ago shed their origins. Drink eight glasses of water a day. Get eight hours of sleep. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Two thousand calories a day is normal. Even people who don’t regularly see a doctor are likely to have encountered this information, which forms the basis of a cultural shorthand. Tick these boxes, and you’re a healthy person.

In the past decade, as pedometers have proliferated in smartphone apps and wearable fitness trackers, another benchmark has entered the lexicon: Take at least 10,000 steps a day, which is about five miles of walking for most people. As with many other American fitness norms, where this particular number came from has always been a little hazy. But that hasn’t stopped it from becoming a default daily goal for some of the most popular activity trackers on the market.

Now new research is calling the usefulness of the 10,000-step standard into question—and with it, the way many Americans think about their daily activities. While basic guidelines can be helpful when they’re accurate, human health is far too complicated to be reduced to a long chain of numerical imperatives. For some people, these rules can even do more harm than good.”

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