You should briskly walk 15,000 steps (that’s seven miles) a day to keep fit – and 10,000 a day won’t help you, no matter what your fitness tracker says
- Figure’s based on studies looking at the health of Tanzanian hunter gatherers
- 10,000-step target pursued by fitness-tracker enthusiasts is a ‘marketing ploy’
- People need to walk hard enough to get the heart pumping faster than normal
Think 10,000 steps a day is enough to stay healthy? A new study suggests we might want to move quite a bit more to improve our fitness.
Experts say 15,000 steps per day – equivalent to a seven-and-a- half-mile hike – are required to gain the maximum health boost, and only if the pace is kept brisk.
The figure is based on studies looking at the health of hunter gatherers in the Tanzanian savannah – and Glaswegian postmen.
These found that the benefits of exercise rise the more we do – and only plateau at a remarkably high level.
Experts say 15,000 steps per day – equivalent to a seven-and-a- half-mile hike – are required to gain the maximum health boost, and only if the pace is kept brisk
Evolutionary anthropologist Professor Herman Potzner, of Duke University in the US state of North Carolina, outlined the new findings in New Scientist magazine.
He said: ‘The 10,000-step target pursued by fitness-tracker enthusiasts [was] a marketing ploy dreamed up by a Japanese manufacturer of pedometers in 1965.’
While this target was ‘a good start’, ‘We should strive for more’, he said.
His research into a hunter gatherer group called the Hadza in Tanzania suggests the ‘optimal dose’ of daily exercise is about two hours a day – or 15,000 steps.
People need to be walking hard enough to get the heart pumping faster than normal.
The Hadza’s high activity levels meant they had ‘the healthiest hearts on the planet… and stay strong and spry into old age,’ Prof Potzner added.
Separately, a study of postal workers in Glasgow found those who took more than 15,000 steps ‘had cardio-metabolic health on a par with hunter-gatherers’, despite living in a city known for its poor health.
Research found people need to be walking hard enough to get the heart pumping faster than normal
Prof Potzner believes humans need so much exercise because we have spent the vast majority of our evolutionary history being active – spending our days gathering food and hunting animals.
Unless we mimic ancient habits, we are likely to succumb to heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
His findings suggest NHS guidelines on exercise are too lax. These state adults ‘should do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as cycling or brisk walking every week’, equating to just over 20 minutes a day, or around 2,500 steps. Four in ten adults fail to meet this minimum threshold.
But experts stress any exercise is better than none. A recent US study of almost 5,000 over-40s found people who met US minimum exercise guidelines of 25 minutes a day had half the chance of dying in the following seven years than those who did no exercise.
Those who did 100 minutes a day cut their risk of early death by 80 per cent.
And for those sick of walking, there’s good news – having a sauna counts as exercise too, with the intense temperature driving up heart rate and blood pressure.
Although saunas are typically thought of as places of relaxation, a team from Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg and Medical Centre Berlin found taking a sauna had a similar physiological effect as going for a bike ride.