Is 10,000 Steps Really a Magic Number for Health?

November 17, 2021

It’s a worthy, healthy goal to take 10,000 steps each day, but that magic number didn’t come from doctors or physical trainers.

In the mid-1960s, Japanese marketers trying to sell a pedometer named it manpo-kei, which generally translates to “10,000 step meter” in English. The Japanese character for “10,000” roughly resembles a person walking.

“It’s a nice clean number and it makes a good marketing message,” said Amanda Paluch, assistant professor in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. “You can see why it stuck. But there was not a lot of science behind it.”

Paluch is the lead researcher of a new meta-analysis looking at the link between how many steps people take and cardiovascular disease. It reinforces the premise that while there’s no magic number when it comes to steps, any number is healthier than the one below it.

The study, which is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal, was reported Monday at the American Heart Association’s virtual Scientific Sessions conference.

Her team analyzed seven previous studies whose participants wore step counters and tracked their cardiovascular health. The research encompassed 16,906 adults whose incidence of heart disease, heart failure or stroke was monitored for a median period of just over six years.

“We brought all these studies together for a large diverse sample,” Paluch said. “What we’re seeing is that the more steps you do, the more benefit you get.”

Paluch’s team divided the participants into four groups based on their median number of daily steps: 1,951; 3,823; 5,685; and 9,487. Cardiovascular disease risk fell as the number of steps increased. The most active group had less than half the number of cardiovascular disease events than the least active, 243 versus 491.

“The message is to move more,” she said. “Don’t get caught up in 10,000 or any other number. It is not an all or nothing situation for cardiovascular health benefits. Just getting incremental increases in your steps could be meaningful in your cardiovascular health.”

Dr. Felipe Lobelo, who heads Emory University’s Exercise is Medicine Global Research and Collaboration Center in Atlanta, agreed the findings reinforce that message.

“We knew that more walking is associated with better health outcomes,” he said. “But this specific outcome – incidence of cardiovascular disease – makes it stronger.”

Lobelo, who was not involved in the research, said the meta-analysis was also significant because it used step counters to measure activity accurately.

“In previous studies, most of the evidence we have is from self-reporting exercise,” said Lobelo, who also is an associate professor at Emory. “We all tend to overestimate what we do.”

The next step regarding steps, Paluch said, is to look at how much the intensity of exercise matters and the health benefits beyond cardiovascular considerations.

“We want to look at other outcomes, like mental health and cancers,” she said. “There are many ways physical activity works on the body, and that makes it a great tool for promoting our health and staying healthier for longer.”

Federal physical activity guidelines urge adults to sit less, move more and accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week.

“This research shows that the number of steps we should be striving for to generate benefits for cardiovascular disease is lower than 10,000, maybe between 5,000 and 6,000 steps per day, which is pretty much the equivalent of 150 minutes per week,” Lobelo said.

For many people, Paluch said, that 10,000 figure can be intimidating, no matter how appropriate it may be for a marketing campaign.

“If you’re not there, don’t become overwhelmed and throw in the towel,” she said. “Think about progressive improvements and working them into your lifestyle and your schedule. Park farther from the store. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. The great thing about steps is we can fit them into our daily lives.”


If you have questions or comments about this story, please email [email protected].

Copyright is owned or held by the American Heart Association, Inc., and all rights are reserved. Permission is granted, at no cost and without need for further request, for individuals, media outlets, and non-commercial education and awareness efforts to link to, quote, excerpt or reprint from these stories in any medium as long as no text is altered and proper attribution is made to American Heart Association News.

Other uses, including educational products or services sold for profit, must comply with the American Heart Association’s Copyright Permission Guidelines. See full terms of use. These stories may not be used to promote or endorse a commercial product or service.

HEALTH CARE DISCLAIMER: This site and its services do not constitute the practice of medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always talk to your health care provider for diagnosis and treatment, including your specific medical needs. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem or condition, please contact a qualified health care professional immediately. If you are in the United States and experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 or call for emergency medical help immediately.


Our modern and fast-paced diet often makes us overlook some crucial issues related to our health and well-being.

Top Stories


A pregnant woman was driving in the HOV lane near Dallas.

General News

NEW YORK – Meropi Kyriacou, the new Principal of The Cathedral School in Manhattan, was honored as The National Herald’s Educator of the Year.


2 Germans, a Spaniard and a Senegalese Killed in Building Collapse in Spain’s Mallorca Island

MADRID (AP) — Spain's National Police on Friday gave details on four people killed when a building housing a bar and restaurant club collapsed on the island of Mallorca.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill.  — The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is once again under the spotlight after a manager failed to consult a collections committee before purchasing a 21-star flag whose description as a rare banner marking Illinois' 1818 admission to the Union is disputed.

BABYLON, NY – Babylon AHEPA Chapter 416 awarded two very well-qualified students Yanni Saridakis and Maria Avlonitis with $1,000 scholarships on May 19.

THRU JUNE 4 NEW YORK – The third iteration of the Carte Blanche project featuring Maria Antelman with the work ‘The Seer (Deep)’ opened on April 19 and runs through June 4, Monday-Friday 9 AM-2:30 PM, at the Consulate General of Greece in New York, 69 East 79th Street in Manhattan.

ATHENS – An Archieratical Divine Liturgy and a memorial service honoring the 50th dark anniversary of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus at the Metropolis – the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Athens – marked the beginning of the 4th Archon International Conference on Religious Freedom of the Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on Sunday, May 26.

Enter your email address to subscribe

Provide your email address to subscribe. For e.g. [email protected]

You may unsubscribe at any time using the link in our newsletter.