Historical Events  Science
10,000 steps

Where did the 10,000 steps per day number come from?

MMDE: Science

Current: A marketing gimmick

Everyone wants to keep fit, and when the idea that walking 10,000 steps per day is all you need came out, it seemed within most people's grasp. The proliferation of step counting gadgets, such as the Fit Bit etc, suggest an automatic, simpler way to keep in shape is available to everyone.

The figure has a nice, rounded, confident ring to it which most people think came from a set of scientific tests.

So it comes as a big surprise when they hear the truth, which in fact reveals it's just one huge marketing gimmick. It's even been reported that the figure is built on bad science and served no other purpose than to build an "entire industry" of personal fitness devices.

Japanese marketing from the mid 1960's

There was a move to promote heath in the 1960's prioir to the Tokyo Olympics when a Japanese company, Yamasa, designed a device to count steps taken during the day. It was called the manpo-kei, which translates to "10,000 step meter". The marketing campagin for this seems to be the origin of the figure, and it's stuck with all the modern equivalents, such as the FitBit, since.

Often, misconceptions arise naturally and it's unusual that one such as this, which has taken hold in the fitness/health ecosystem, can have its roots traced so comprehensively to a signle, deliberate manufactured origin. Whilst no-one is disputing the health benefits of walking 10,000 steps per day, it's the way this figure has ingrained itself into everyone's minds that's the issue.

The interesting thing is that actualy studies have now been conducted since the number was exposed as a myth and new ones were announced. They are: 4,400 per day is optimum, with the benefit trailing down until 7,500 where they stay level.