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Blame Japan. The number comes from a Japanese pedometer sold in the 1960s called manpo-kei (translation: “10,000 steps meter”), says Catrine Tudor-Locke, Ph.D., of UMass Amherst. The number stuck, and research confirmed the value of a 10K-step habit.
In one study, hypertensive men who hit at least 10,000 steps a day for 12 weeks lowered their blood pressure and increased their VO2 max, a measure of aerobic fitness.
Still, 10,000 steps a day could be unrealistically high for someone who usually walks 3,000. It could also be too low to matter to a 12,000-step guy.
To ramp up your step count, Tudor-Locke suggests customizing your goal: Count your steps for three days, average them, and then try to exceed that number by at least 3,000 steps. (You can reset your fitness tracker’s default step count to any number you want.)
Alternatively, you could time your walks: A U.K. study found that people who walked for at least 2 ½ hours a week saw their risk of premature death decrease by 11 percent. And you know what’s good for monitoring that time? An old-fashioned wristwatch.