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It doesn’t take 10,000 steps a day to get healthier

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I recently saw in the news information about a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that even a small effort in the steps-a-day category can totally alter mortality rate.

The study followed more than 16,000 women with an average age of 72. After four-plus years, the women who averaged 4,400 steps a day had a lower rate of death than the ones who averaged 2,700 steps per day. At around 7,500 steps a day, the benefit started to level out.

The official recommendation from many experts is 150 minutes of activity a week. Somewhere down the line, someone recommended 10,000 steps a day as the magic number for activity. That equates to about five miles a day.

But where did the recommendation of 10,000 steps come from? Apparently, in the 1960s, a doctor in Japan by the name of Yoshiro Hatano became concerned that the average citizen of Japan was not getting enough exercise. He found that on average the Japanese walked 3,500-5,000 steps a day. Hatano marketed a pedometer called a Manpo-Kei, which in Japanese means “10,000 steps meter.” He believed that doubling the number of steps that were the norm at the time would make people healthier.

Pedometers have been around way longer than the ’60s, dating back to a Swiss man named Perrelet in 1780. Thomas Jefferson, an avid inventor to the core, is said to have brought pedometers to the U.S. — and even mailed one to James Madison with directions!

In the last 20-plus years, pedometers/trackers have grown in popularity and multiplied all over the place. There are more than 340 different wearable devices, including smartphones, that track steps and other useful information.

There really is no reason not to track your activity or steps, unless you are just not interested at all. I believe that if you are able, then you should try to be as fit as you can be today. And that means making sure you are moving, according to this new study in JAMA, at least 4,400 steps each day.

You can spend a lot of negative time wishing and worrying about your weight, or your hips, or your knees or what people will think. Or you can be the most fit you can be, just as you are TODAY.

Don’t go weeks on end without any countable activity, no matter your age. The women in this study averaged 72 years old. So, if you are able, are you getting 4,400 steps a day?

I get that many steps before I leave for work many days, and I am sure many of you do as well. I am trying to get as many things done as I can before I leave for work, so that when I get home from work I have less to do!

I still like the idea of getting a minimum 10,000 steps a day. This idea has been ingrained in us through the media via experts for a while now, and knowing you walked roughly 5 miles a day is an accomplishment for many.

Be sure and focus on what you did accomplish in the exercise arena instead of what you did not accomplish. That is important too.

If you are trying to figure out where to start, and you have been out of the exercise loop for some time, why not aim for at least 5,000 steps a day — and hope to hit at least 10,000 steps 2-4 days a week. That way you have a little room for error if you don’t make it.

I am not talking to the avid exercisers here. I am nudging the exercise wagon flunkies to get moving today. Do the best you can today. Start somewhere today. Make a plan today. Be as fit as you can today. Make time for you today. Put down this article and get started today, now. You can do it, today.


Ann Angell is a certified instructor and personal trainer. She is fitness director for the YMCA of Calhoun County. Her fitness column appears the third Sunday of each month.