How Many Steps a Day Should You Be Aiming For?

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My mom speaks in 10,000-steps-a-day terms: "I already took my 10,000 today," or "It’s been a 14,000-steps day." Ever since I gave her a Fitbit in 2015 she’s been a total convert. Recently, I snooped on her statistics, and she averaged 13,500 daily steps last month. She’d always been a person who liked walking, but having a specific goal of a minimum of 10,000 daily steps helps her stay more active. Taking more steps a day has made it easier for her to lose a little bit of weight and manage her high blood pressure.

I took to her on that and now also like to get my 10,000 steps a day when possible. But sticking to healthy habits wasn’t necessarily easy for me in 2020. Unlike me, my mom made no excuses and averaged almost 7,000 steps a day when Spain was in total lockdown between March and early June of 2020. She did it by pacing her really-not-that-big Barcelona apartment. In those same weeks, I was sheltering in place in California and trying to get some activity by using a stationary bike. The only way I could make the activity attainable and not numbingly boring was by pedaling and reading at the same time.

The whole experience got me thinking: Are 10,000 steps a day really necessary? Was my tiresome pedaling equivalent to my previous frequent walks? And where did the whole 10,000 steps a day come from, anyway?