Forget 10,000 steps a day, that’s the number you should be focusing on

How many steps did you take today?

Most of us have faced this question at some point in our lives, and many of us use our step count as a metric to gauge how active we are. For years we’ve been told that taking at least 10,000 steps is crucial to maintaining our health, but how was this number chosen and is it really accurate?

That’s what Raj Punjabi and Noah Michelson, hosts of HuffPosts, I’m Doing It Wrong? podcast spoke with Heather Milton, an exercise physiologist at NYU Langone Health in New York, when she stopped by our studio to give us tips and tricks for better exercise.

Listen to the full episode by pressing play:

We always hear about 10,000 steps and I actually read that number is based on this pedometer designed in Japan [in the 1960s], Michelson said. The [Japanese character] for 10,000 it looks like a person walking, so… he became famous for it.

Although this specific number was not based on medical or scientific research, it has remained the benchmark for our daily step goal for decades.

There has been more recent literature that has been examined [10,000 steps] Milton told us. The idea is if you get the right intensity out of it [10,000-step] walking, then you get the CDC and ACSM recommended amount of aerobic exercise per day, because it equates to about 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity.

However, not all steps are created equal.

When you are counting steps, does that mean I got up and walked to get water and came back? Probably not moderate intensity, he said.

Because of this, Milton emphasized that in order for us to get the most out of our walks, our pace should be fast enough to prevent us from easily chatting while walking, which he referred to as the conversation test.

If you and I were trying to have a conversation, could you just answer yes or no to my questions? Or could we be chatting like this? she asked. There’s a threshold dose or an intensity dose that allows you to increase your health, and if we were looking at heart rate ranges, [thats] around 60… 64 to 76 technically… percent of maximum heart rate. This zone is your moderate intensity zone.

Aside from intensity, different step counts can provide different results based on other factors, such as age. A 2019 study of 16,741 women aged 62 to 101 found that 4,400 steps per day was associated with a 41% reduction in mortality compared to walking 2,700 steps per day. [and walking] about 7,500 steps was associated with a 65% reduction. Another study showed a progressive decrease in mortality risk for people under the age of 60 when they took 8,000 to 10,000 steps a day.

Because there’s a lot to consider when trying to use step counts to determine our fitness, Milton suggested we stop focusing so specifically on our steps and focus on a different number: 30.

30 is not only the number of minutes of moderate activity we want to aim for each day, it’s also the maximum number of minutes we should allow ourselves to remain seated or sedentary at any time of the day.

Sedentary behavior is another risk factor for health, he pointed out.

Inactivity can contribute to countless medical problems, including obesity, high blood pressure, certain cancers and mental health problems, so the less sedentary we are, the better our health and well-being.

The sweet spot to break the sedentary lifestyle [is moving] every 30 minutes, Milton said. If you walk, your steps contribute to it [and thats] helping your health from a different domain.

That’s why he likes to use steps as a simple tool and an objective measure of self [my client] Did he have any activity or not that day.

So for the general population, if you have a Fitbit or other device that counts your steps, you can see how low they are, he said. You can then set goals to increase it over time.

If we see a low count at the end of the day, this could indicate that we were sitting or sedentary for much of the day.

10,000 [steps] it may not be what you want to set [your goal to], said Milton. It might just be to increase it by 200 [steps]. Then you can slowly increase over time, so you have more active time. It may not be structured exercise, but it is physical activity. And that can help with your metabolism and overall health.

The Mayo Clinic notes that we can also break up sitting time by finding ways to walk while we work, such as taking a walk with colleagues instead of sitting during a meeting, using a standing desk (or working while standing at the desk) for parts of during the day, or standing for a while while doing an activity that we normally do while sitting, such as talking on the phone or watching TV.

During our conversation with Milton we also learned why we might be warming up wrong (and how to do it better), the truth about spot training, and more. So listen to the full episode above or wherever you get your podcasts.

Be sure to subscribe to Am I Doing It Wrong? so you don’t miss an episode, including our investigations into the pros and cons of tipping, how to ask for forgiveness or beat your credit card debt, how to find love online or overcome anxiety, tips for shop online, take care of your teeth and poop. like a pro, secrets to booking and staying at a hotel, how to deal with an angry person, cooking tips from celebrity chef Jet Tila, shocking laundry secrets, tips and tricks for cleaner dishes and more.

Need help with something you’re doing wrong? Email us at AmIDoingItWrong@HuffPost.comand we might investigate the topic in an upcoming episode.

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