Harvard researchers just debunked this major exercise myth

Despite what we know about the complexity of the human body, it’s so easy to accept exact formulas as diet science. Whether we’re talking about calorie counts, alcohol guidelines, or our daily intake of physical activity,  we might do well to aim for the vicinities. 

According to new epidemiological research from The Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health,  the idea that 10,000 steps should be everyone’s daily fitness goal on principle isn’t actually substantiated by science. 

The paper was led by I-Min Lee, who is a Professor in the Department of Epidemiology. After co-authoring in-depth analysis on the association between step volume and intensity and all-cause mortality, it became clear that the 10,000 standards advertised by fitness trackers and smartphone apps had dubious origins. 

In Dr.Lee’s estimation, the purported default began as a marketing strategy by a Japanese pedometer company in the 1960s to sell a product called “The 10,000 Step Meter.”

The company’s reason for choosing that title? The Japanese character for 10,000 looks like a person walking. It was little more than a clever gimmick. In fact, Dr.Lee found no evidence that supports the health benefits of that particular number not has it been academically corroborated.

Make no mistake, walking is good. People should walk. But the physiological advantages afforded by doing so is more about consistency than it is about quantity.The number of steps one takes matters in the approximate equation of wellness (if there even is such a thing)  but the value doesn’t have to be achieved in a linear way. 

From the new report published in The JAMA Network:

“A goal of 10 000 steps/d is commonly believed by the public to be necessary for health, but this number has limited scientific basis. Additionally, it is unknown whether greater stepping intensity is associated with health benefits, independent of steps taken per day.” 

“In this cohort study of 16 741 women with a mean age of 72 years, steps per day were measured over 7 days. Women who averaged approximately 4400 steps/d had significantly lower mortality rates during a follow-up of 4.3 years compared with the least active women who took approximately 2700 steps/d; as more steps per day were accrued, mortality rates progressively decreased before leveling at approximately 7500 steps/d.”

Developments like these are very important in our fight against the obesity crisis. Given, ballpark aspirations have the potential to inspire much more than rigid rubrics as far as health is concerned. 

In respect to walking specifically, there are geographical and pandemic-induced limitations placed on populations that require them to think outside the box.

 “Some people are not walkers. They don’t have safe neighborhoods, or they feel unsteady on sidewalks,” Dr.Lee concluded. “You need to be more creative. Is this a person who needs to go to a gym class or the pool, or sit on a stationary bike?”

The new study was co-authored by I-Min Lee, MBBS, Eric J. Shiroma, ScD, and Masamitsu Kamada, PhD and can be read in full in the JAMA Network.