Do you feel that dopamine rush when your mobile alerts you have reached 10,000 steps in a day?  Do you feel gold and ready for the London marathon?  Maybe not so fast (literally).

That 10,000 steps is a completely arbitrary figure, one that originates from a successful Japanese marketing campaign in the mid-1960s. In an attempt to capitalise on the immense popularity of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, the company Yamasa designed the world’s first wearable step-counter, a device called a Manpo-kei, which translates as “10,000-step meter”.

A recent meta-analysis of eight studies concluded that among older adults, taking 6,000 to 9,000 steps per day was associated with 40 to 50 per cent lower risk of cardiovascular disease, compared with taking 2,000 steps per day.

When accumulating more steps per day, there was a progressively lower risk

But this does not mean you have to push for 10,000 steps each day. “We found for adults over 60, there was a strikingly lower risk of a cardiovascular event or disease over an average follow-up of six years,” said Amanda Paluch, an assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and first author of the study. “When accumulating more steps per day, there was a progressively lower risk”, she added.

“The people who are the least active have the most to gain,” she said in a statement. “For those who are at 2,000 or 3,000 steps a day, doing a little bit more can mean a lot for their heart health. If you’re at 6,000 steps, getting to 7,000 and then to 8,000 also is beneficial, it is just a smaller, incremental improvement.”

The authors of the study also did not find any striking association with walking intensity. There was no additional benefit with how fast you are walking, beyond the total number of steps that you accumulated.

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