The concept of taking 10,000 steps a day to improve health parameters was popularized by the marketing of the “Manpo-kei” pedometer. Around the time of Japan’s 1965 Olympics, professor Dr. Yoshiro Hatano became interested in alleviating increases in heart disease and obesity. His research involved finding a way to calculate the number of calories burned while exercising. He theorised that taking 10,000 steps a day would result in a 20% increase in calories burned for the average person.
The 10,000 steps meter or “Manpo-kei” was the perfect device to help people reach their health goals. Its popularity grew in Japan during the increased attention to health and fitness brought on by the Olympics. It also did not hurt that the name itself utilized the Japanese character for 10,000, which resembles a human in motion. The popularity of the concept and pedometer continues to this day in Japan.
The concept has shown up in the US as somewhat of a “10,000 Steps a Day Challenge” and has become a health standard recommended by the World Health Organization, American Heart Association and the US Centers for Disease Control. Despite critics’ claims that there has been no solid research showing the specific efficacy of taking 10,000 steps, the concept does have merit especially in terms of its ability to motivate. Critical components to any successful health or fitness concept are simplicity, clearly
stated and achievable goals, and most importantly the ability to track and see
progress. In this regard, the goal of taking 10,000 steps a day is a great way to get
folks moving more and feeling better.
My recommendations for achieving health and fitness goals with tracking steps begin with
evaluating your personal starting point. At first, simply track your daily steps using a Fitbit or
other wearable tracking device. It is important to take into consideration your own specific health
concerns and interests. For example, the process would look very different for a person who has
been recovering and on bed rest as opposed to someone who is generally active during the day.
Once your baseline starting point is established, limitations are taken into consideration, the next
part is to be patient with yourself and create a realistic timeline for achieving your 10,000 steps a
day. This groundwork will not only help you achieve 10,000 steps in a day but maintain or
surpass that level of activity.
It is also important to recognize that not all activity can be tracked by steps. There are handy
conversion charts that can be used to translate non-step activities into steps that will help with
making the 10,000 marks. For example gardening, weight training, or using a handbike are all
healthy activities – make sure you take credit for them in your 10,000 step journey.