10000 Steps

10,000 steps origins

10000 stepsThe manpo-kei was made and marketed away back in 1965 by a Japanese company. The name quite literally translates as “10000 steps meter”; a pedometer with a name to match. The general public rapidly and gleefully accepted the device which became an almost instant success, along with the ideas that it propagated. Hence, the original 10000 steps programme was born.

Why did the company call the device “10000 steps meter”?

It dates back to research that was done some years before but only published in English in the journal “Diabetes Care” in 1995. “Daily walking combined with diet therapy is a useful means for obese NIDDM patients not only to reduce body weight but also to improve insulin sensitivity” (Diabetes Care 1995;18(6):775-7713.) was the original study. (Hardly trips off the tongue does it!?!)

Summarising the research, two groups of male, obese NIDDM patients followed identical diets. The difference between the two groups was in the number of steps they took and here’s where the important bit comes. One group took an average of 19200 steps and the other, only 4500 steps.
Over six to eight weeks, the group doing more steps lost, on average, 17lb. That is a significant loss especially when the other group only lost, on average, 9lb.

I can hear you exclaiming that “this still doesn’t explain why 10000 steps” which of course is true. According to the internet, Dr. Yoshiro Hanako, the brains behind the pedometer, noticed the average Japanese person moving between 3500 and 5000 steps per day. Dr Hanako believed that increasing this would improve people’s health and so, seemingly arbitrarily, chose 10000 steps as the benchmark.

10,000 steps must be ok then!

A trustworthy source told me recently that the 10000 step programme is a ‘non-exercise’ programme, meaning 10000 steps is a minimum before you add voluntary exercise. The recommendation is to make 10000 steps your daily average and then add some exercise on top.

The same source also mentioned research pointing to an adult needing three hours of movement a day to stay healthy! “Sit still and stop fidgeting” regularly rang in my ears as a child but this seems to contradict the current ‘good advice’ that Children need three to four hours of movement to stay healthy. There is also the Minnesota university that improved learning and also health by replacing classroom chairs with exercise balls.
All this adds up to a very compelling overall picture. We need to move more!

Is 10000 steps the answer?

I think you should make up your own mind on that. All that we can say is that moving more is likely to benefit our health.

I don’t have time to move that much

Yes you do! Most of us have enough time and it only takes a small change in one or two areas to make a difference.
I am not supposing that lots of people will go out and get hold of a treadmill so they can exercise while watching TV or doing the ironing. But… combining exercise with commuting will help. Why not try to park further away from the office or the shops. This means you walk further but you also get the added benefit of more space to park the car.
Try forgetting things and run back up, or indeed, down the stairs a few times to get them. Change your workstation to
a standing desk.
Submit your own ideas in the comments below if you like!


10000 steps may have been an arbitrary measurement to begin with but it is a great guideline place to start. The more you move, the better you will probably feel. You will be less likely to get circulation problems and more likely to lose weight. You may be able to think more clearly, learn more quickly and have generally better brain function and health.

What’s not to like?

Go on, go and get active.

Alex Green

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