10,000 Steps May Not Be Ideal For All — Science Reveals Number Of Steps A Person Actually Needs To Walk Per Day

Jul 12, 2021 by apost team

With the popularity of smartwatches and pedometers, most people have heard about the 10,000 step goal. For decades it has been said that walking 10,000 steps a day will help you lose weight and improve your general health. However, there is scientific evidence that suggests you may not need to walk that much every day to be healthy.

Daniel Lieberman is a Harvard professor in the department of human evolutionary biology, and he suggests that hitting a magic number everyday is not the key to a healthy lifestyle. He wrote in his book “Exercised” that the 10,000 step goal is really a marketing ploy that originated in Japan to sell pedometers. Lieberman said the Japanese term Manpo-kei, which translates to 10,000 step-meter, was chosen by the company Yamasa Tokei because it sounded good.

Lieberman also said that 10,000 steps is not a bad goal, and anything that encourages people to move their bodies is actually good and helpful for them. He explains that it is natural for our bodies to want to store energy, so non-essential physical activity like exercise can be difficult habits for people to adopt. The real goal should be to move your body regularly throughout the day, and however you get yourself to do that is the right choice for you. 

The Harvard professor makes a point to mention that there are still benefits to step-goals, even if the number 10,000 isn’t right for you. Walking is an accessible activity for most people because it doesn't require any additional equipment, making it cost effective. Read on to learn more about Lieberman’s research and to determine what exercise plan is right for your lifestyle. 


As an evolutionary biologist, Lieberman looks to our ancestors to determine what trends have worked to increase personal health. In an interview with NPR, Lieberman explained:  

"Until recently, when energy was limited and people were physically active, doing physical activity that wasn't necessarily rewarding, just didn't happen. When I go to these (remote African tribal) villages, I'm the only person who gets up in the morning and goes for a run. And often they laugh at me. They think I'm just absolutely bizarre. ... Why would anybody do something like that?"

The professor added that people today aren’t too different physically from our human ancestors. "If you actually look at what our ancestors do, they walk about 5 miles a day, which turns out to be, for most people, about 10,000 steps," Lieberman said. For this reason, 10,000 steps is a good goal on average, but it still may not be a perfect fit for everyone. 

Walking is a good source of exercise for people who enjoy walking because it means they will stick with the exercise. It is regular movement that is most beneficial for your health. "The more we study physical activity, the more we realize that it doesn't really matter what you do," Lieberman said. "You don't have to do incredible strength training ... to get some benefits of physical activity. There's all different kinds of physical activity, and it's all good in different ways."

Lieberman explained that the type of exercise that works best is going to vary from person to person, and the success is largely based on what they feel motivated to do. 


istockphotos.com/Vasyl Dolmatov

He explained, "We all have deep fundamental instincts to avoid unnecessary activity, so we need those nudges to help people get started.” 

So, the answer to how much you should really walk per day is this: however much you will actually walk. If the answer for you is only 5,000 steps, then that is the correct number. The point is not to be discouraged and to let go of an “all or nothing” mindset. 

Along with the truth behind counting steps, Lieberman spoke with NPR about his research on sitting for long periods during the day. Apparently, it is a misconception that our ancestors sat less than we do now. Lieberman said: 

“When I walk into a village in a remote part of the world where people don't have chairs or a hunter-gatherer camp, people are always sitting. ... Some friends and colleagues of mine actually put some accelerometers on some hunter-gatherers and found that they sit on average about 10 hours a day, which is pretty much the same amount of time Americans like me spend sitting.”

The professor added, “So it turns out that I think we've kind of demonized sitting a little falsely. It's not unnatural or strange or weird to sit a lot, but it is problematic if, of course, that's all you do.” The bottom line is, regular movement is the key to a healthy lifestyle, but humans need the motivation to get up and move. So if a step-counter motivates you, then you are on the right track. If not, then the right movement plan is still waiting for you.


Do you count how many steps you take in a day? Did you find this information helpful? Let us know what you think, and don’t forget to pass this story along to your loved ones.

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