Ten thousand steps was first popularized by Japanese pedometers in the 1960s under the name "manpo-kei," which means "10,000 steps meter," according to UC Davis Integrative Medicine. 

Today, taking 10,000 steps a day is a popular goal because some research has shown coupled with other healthy behaviors (such as diet) it can lead to a decrease in chronic illness like diabetes, metabolic syndromes and heart disease, according to Michael Roizen, a physician and chief wellness officer at Cleveland Clinic.

"If you look at it, if everyone did just 10,000 steps a day in America we would probably decrease healthcare budget by $500 billion a year and that shows how few people actually do it, and two how big a reduction in chronic disease we’d have if more did," according to  Roizen, who is also author of “Age Proof: Living longer without running out of money or breaking a hip.” 

The Centers for Disease and Control doesn't specifically recommend 10,000 steps a day. But it does suggest people get at least 150 minutes of moderate activity each week (30 minutes a day) coupled with two or more days of muscle-strengthening activity.

CDC’s guidelines suggest Americans get some physical activity and reduce sedentary time, which will ultimately benefit their health, according to Neil Johannsen, assistant Professor in the School of Kinesiology at Louisiana State University.

He said some research shows that adults aiming for the 150 minutes a week typically walk around 7,500 steps a day.

"So 10,000 steps represents the highest level in most adults," Johannsen said. "It’s that do more than what is recomended and you will see further benefits to your health."

And the benefits over 10,000 steps may be substantial. Roizen points to a recent study, that found postal workers in Glasgow, Scotland, who walked 15,000 steps a day, had fewer risk factors for heart disease than colleagues who sat throughout the day.

The study, published in the The International Journal of Obesity, doesn't identify 10,000 steps, but 15,000 is pretty close, Roizen said.

At the end of the day, whether you're walking 8,000 or 13,000 steps a day, it's key to get moving, he said.

Source: USA Today