Lots of people keep an eye on their fitness trackers as they go about the common mission of getting 10,000 steps daily. A new study, however, suggests that specific goal isn't as important as you might think. Researchers found that benefits in regard to longevity began in earnest at about 4,400 steps daily and leveled off at 7,500, at least among older women, reports NPR. The intensity of those steps didn't seem to matter. The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, followed 17,000 women with a mean age of 72, beginning in 2011. The large study sample, combined with the long follow-up of eight years in some cases, gives the study credibility, writes Nina Shapiro at Forbes. The upshot is that the figure of 10,000 appears to be based more on marketing than science.
“I’m not saying don’t get 10,000 steps," lead researcher I-Min Lee of Harvard's TH Chan School of Public Health tells the Atlantic. "If you can get 10,000 steps, more power to you. But if you’re someone who’s sedentary, even a very modest increase brings you significant health benefits.” A University of Iowa researcher not involved with the study amplifies the latter point. "To me, this study suggests there's more benefit to light activity than we were previously thinking there might be," Kathleen Janz tells NPR. The study was observational, meaning it didn't definitively link the walking to the boost in longevity, but Lee says it's clear that moderate physical activity (walking or otherwise) is key to a healthy life. (Fitness trackers can help in surprising ways.)