USA TODAY - Even if you don't have a fitness tracker like a Fitbit, you've probably heard that you should strive to take 10,000 steps a day.
But where did the 10,000 step recommendation come from? And what happens to your body when you take 10,000 steps?
Ten thousand steps was first popularized by Japanese pedometers in the 1960s under the name "manpo-kei," which means "10,000 steps meter," according to UC Davis Integrative Medicine. Today, taking 10,000 steps a day is a popular goal because some research has shown coupled with other healthy behaviors it can lead to a decrease in chronic illness like diabetes, metabolic syndromes and heart disease, according to Michael Roizen, a physician and chief wellness officer at Cleveland Clinic.
"If you look at it, if everyone did just 10,000 steps a day in America we would probably decrease healthcare budget by $500 billion a year and that shows how few people actually do it, and two how big a reduction in chronic disease we’d have if more did," according to Roizen, who is also author of Age Proof: Living longer without running out of money or breaking a hip.
While the Centers for Disease and Control doesn't specifically recommend10,000 steps a day, it does suggest people get at least 150 minutes of moderate activity each week (30 minutes a day) coupled with two or more days of muscle-strengthening activity.
The guidelines suggest Americans get some physical activity and reduce sedentary time, which will ultimately benefit their health, according to Neil Johannsen, assistant Professor in the School of Kinesiology at Louisiana State University.
He said some research shows that adults aiming for the 150 minutes a week typically walk around 7,500 steps a day.
"So, taking that standpoint,10,000 steps represents that highest level in most adults," Johannsen said. "It’s that do more than what is recomended and you will see further benefits to your health."
And the benefits over 10,000 steps may be substantial. Roizen points to a recent study, that found postal workers in Glasgow, Scotland, who walked 15,000 steps a day, had fewer risk factors for heart disease than colleagues who sat throughout the day.
While the study published in the The International Journal of Obesity, doesn't identify 10,000 steps, 15,000 is pretty close, Roizen said.
At the end of the day, whether you're walking 8,000 or 13,000 steps a day, it's key to get moving, he said.
Here's a look at how you can get started:
Get a pedometer
Pedometers not only monitor physical activity, but also keep people interested in physical activity, Johannsen said.
"Most people get started with a program and miss a week because of life and then they quit," he said. "I'm hoping these monitors keep people motivated enough so they go back to a physical activity program and meet their goals."
While 10,000 steps may seem like a lofty goal, it's easier than you think. Johannsen recommends the following:
- Whether it's at work or going to the grocery store, park your vehicle at the end of the parking lot so you get additional steps.
- Get up and move for 5-10 minutes every hour at work. Johannsen said people should make time to move during work so they aren't sedentary for long periods of time. "Get up and move to break up the sedentary time, and that may be just as important as 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day," he said.
Build up your steps
For those who are nowhere near 10,000 steps a day, the goal should be to gradually increase the amount of steps you take each day, Johannsen said.
"If you are sedentary the whole goal of the physical activity guideline is to reduce sedentary time," Johannsen said. "If you are sitting there behind a desk it's best for you to start low in the 4,000 - 3,000 range, which is actually higher than what most sedentary people get for physical activity."
In order to avoid injury people who have been fairly sedentary should make sure they take it slow, according to Roizen.
"The goal is just to do four steps more today than you did yesterday," Roizen said. "This is a hazard with guys more than women where they say 'I felt so good I did 4,000 steps more than I did yesterday, or than I did in the last 10 years,' an they injure themselves of develop pain because they went so far, so fast."
Follow Mary Bowerman on Twitter: @MaryBowerman