The Bizare Origins Of The 10k-Steps-A-Day Goal

Emma Colsey-Nicholls
4 min readOct 1, 2022

How Many Steps Do We Really Need?

Photo by Michael Walk on Unsplash

I’ll fully admit I have been completely on board with the 10k-steps-a-day advice since I first heard about it many years ago. Promptly buying myself a pedometer to track my steps. Yes, it was that long ago!!! This number has been swung around for literal decades, way before smartphones and watches were a thing.

Now our devices have the 10k target set in as the gold standard, but where did it actually come from?

In a world where we are sitting more and doing less manual jobs, it’s important to remain mindful of how much we are moving on a day-to-day basis.

I still to this day work with clients to help them increase their daily movement for better health and weight loss results, because of the fact that many of us now spend most of our time sitting for hours at a computer.

None Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) is an important part of the weight loss equation, and so it’s one of the key recommendations I always want to help clients move closer towards.

In my naivety back when I first committed to working towards this daily goal, I didn’t even question where the 10k steps number came from. It just became widely accepted by everyone I knew in the health and wellness industry, so we all just went with it.

So I was pretty surprised to learn that the number was not something that was rooted in scientific research.

Where Did The Number Come From?

It was actually created by the Japanese marketing team who were promoting the sale of pedometers around the 1964 Tokoyo Olympics.

It’s believed that the number was derived from the name of the pedometer ‘Manpo-Kei’ which translates to 10,000 step meter. It's even been suggested that the number stuck, as the Japanese symbol for 10,000 also looks similar to that of a walking man.

So How Many Steps Do You Really Need?

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Emma Colsey-Nicholls

Women’s Health and lifestyle coach. Top writer in Health. I write about health, habit creation and how to be a happier you. https://emmacolseynicholls.co.uk