If you have trouble reaching that "10,000 steps a day" milestone and are feeling some guilt about it, The Doctors are happy to share that taking fewer than 10,000 steps is still beneficial to your health.
The New York Times reports the idea that we need to get 10,000 steps (which equals around 5 miles) each day dates back to 1964 and was linked to the marketing of a pedometer. "Today’s best science suggests we do not need to take 10,000 steps a day for the sake of our health or longevity," the NYT notes.
A study from 2019 found that women in their 70s who got in as little as 4,400 steps a day were able to drop their risk of premature death by about 40 percent, compared to women of the same age who only took 2,700 or fewer steps a day. The risk level dropped for those walking more than 5,000 steps. but plateaued at the 7,500 step mark.
Another study found getting your steps was important, but 10,000 was not the magic number. The NYT writes, "People who walked for about 8,000 steps a day were half as likely to die prematurely from heart disease or any other cause as those who accumulated 4,000 steps a day." The study found getting 10,000 steps did not harm anyone, but also did not provide much more additional protection against dying young.
Instead of worrying about the number of steps, the experts tell the NYT, we should focus on the amount of time we spend being active each day and should exercise for at least 150 minutes a week (this translates to around 16,000 steps a week), or around 30 minutes most days. Most people reportedly get in around 5,000 steps each day during the normal course of their day, and adding an additional 2,000 to 3,000 steps will help you reach the optimal 7,000 to 8,000 steps per day.