News Flash!  From the pages of AARP magazine, our generations Bible. You don’t need 10,000 steps a day to live longer.

FACT: The standard goal of 10,000 steps a day isn’t based on science.  It comes from a marketing effort related to the 1964 Olympics.  The 10,000 steps concept was initially formulated in Japan in the lead-up to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. There was no real evidence to support this target. Rather, it was a marketing strategy to sell step counters.

OK folks, once again we have been duped, how many times have we heard something so often that on the mere repeating it becomes truth, when there is no basis for that ‘truth’ at all.   How often have we fallen into the marketing trap?  

Here is the important part – according to the AARP article – To find out how many steps older adults really need so they can lower their risk of dying from all causes, researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston asked nearly 17,000 women (average age:72) to record their steps for at least 10 hours a day on at least four days a week.  Mortality rates began to drop when the women averaged 4,400 step a day; the mortality rates were at their lowest at 7,500 steps, then leveled off.  

I admit I succumbed to the marketing and asked Santa for a Fitbit last year.  Santa left the menacing thing in my stocking along with a tiny lump of coal, I don’t know what that was all about!  I was thrilled with the Fitbit, and after fighting our way into the package, Monty and I put our heads together to get it programed.  OK, Monty figured it out. Naturally we set the goal at 10,000 steps and I stepped out smartly on my quest.  I’m a fairly active person and in truth, I really just wanted the Fitbit to validate that I was indeed a fit seventy something.   

I don’t think I’m obsessive, although that trait does run in my family, you know who you are.  I told myself I was just going to check my step count a couple of times a day not every 15 minutes.  I then convinced myself that not looking at it was defeating the purpose, how would I know how many steps it took to prepare dinner.  Spoiler Alert, we need a bigger kitchen.  

I was diligent wearing the Fitbit.  I walked from the farthest parking space into the grocery store, checked my Fitbit, and pushed the grocery cart up and down the aisles to determine just how many steps it took to find the Jalapeno Doritos, Buffalo wings, and Alka Selzer.  (not as many as I thought)

After a morning of my usual routine I had logged about 2,500 steps, only 7,500 steps to go.  Hmmm this might be harder than I thought. I marched while standing at the sink eating lunch, continued to march while loading the dishwasher and folding the laundry.  My legs were tired and the damn Fitbit was only flashing 3,300 steps. I sat down to read for a while and the Fitbit buzzed and suggested I take a stroll.  After all I was 6,700 steps short of the stupid 10,000 step goal.   Grudgingly I got up and walked up to the mailbox, adding a measly 357 steps.   

At this rate I was never going to experience the thrill of the Fitbit’s fireworks display when I reached the 10,000 step we programed.  After wearing the Fitbit for a couple of weeks I came to the conclusion that 10,000 steps a day could only be met by a marathon runner having a good day. I was facing the cruel fact that I wasn’t as fit as I thought I was and I was beginning to resent those liars that bragged about their 10,000 steps. 

For my mental health we re-programmed the Fitbit to 6,000 steps, a much more realistic goal.  Over the course of the next couple of weeks I reached the new goal several times (on the days I went to fitness at the rec center)  and celebrated with the fireworks display. People at the check out line at Home Depot gave me high fives and I felt pretty good about my accomplishment.  Eventually I got bored with the whole thing and tossed the Fitbit into the junk drawer.  

Reading the article in AARP, I feel vindicated, and can happily trash the whole 10,000 steps concept.  How could I have been so gullible?  Why would anyone think the magic 10,000 number was a one size fits all deal, anyway.   I don’t think many people in their golden years are walking 10,000 steps a day, certainly not the septuagenarians, really, we have better things to do with our time.    

With a new goal in mind I decided to search through the junk drawer for the Fitbit and re-think my fitness routine.  According to the article 4,400 steps a day would improve my chance of living longer.  Anything over that is a bonus worth celebrating. The new goal is doable and I’m feeling pretty good about the whole fitness deal.  

Moral of the story; Keep moving to add years to your life, no couch potatoes please, but enjoy life, take a walk, do some gardening, even take the stairs but for goodness sakes don’t obsess about 10,000 steps.  

It was a marketing trick.    

4 replies
  1. sandy lorenz
    sandy lorenz says:

    2020 is my goal!! Health wise, I should be better to get myself back in shape. I’m hoping this will be able to happen. Sandy

  2. Geoffery Seaver
    Geoffery Seaver says:

    10,000 steps a day is a challenging goal. We had team walking contests at the office to help folks get moving during the day. You could do the 3 mile loop around the base or do the 2 mile round trip walk to the subway stop near the office (and more steps when you go off the subway at home). I had to ride my bike 20 miles at NLT 16 miles per hour to get a similar workout.

    • Carrie Bonello
      Carrie Bonello says:

      On an everyday basis I think only the mother of a toddler can manage 10,000 steps. I think setting the goal so high simply discourages people from even trying. Setting a more realistic goal makes it possible and with a little effort even old folks can get the 4,500 steps.


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