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Good Question: Why Is 10,000 Steps The Magic Number?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Chances are you have heard it before: You have to get 10,000 steps in a day to be healthy.

Fitbit users are constantly reminded of this.

That got Peter from Maplewood wondering: Why is 10,000 the magic number?

"Most of my clients actually have [Fitbits]. It's fun because we'll actually do little challenges together," said Michelle Berry, from Elite Fitness and Nutrition in Minnetonka.

The devices are eager to alert you when you hit that magic number.

"That's the number that roughly is enough to start decrease things like heart disease or diabetes," Berry said.

And that is according to the American Heart Association. Ten-thousand steps is also the Surgeon General's recommendation. They say it is equal to 30 minutes of activity a day, which in turn increases energy and decreases risks.

Fitbit (credit: CBS)

But what if you exercise and don't hit the magic number?

"I always tell me clients if you're getting more than you were yesterday, then you're doing great," Berry said.

The Centers for Disease Control does not necessarily think you need to hit 10,000 steps. They recommend about 150 minutes of moderate activity a week, which is the equivalent of about 7,000 to 8,000 steps a day.

When it comes to counting steps, studies have shown that the Fitbit is actually pretty accurate. But the Journal for Science and Medicine in Sport said they lose a little bit of accuracy when it comes to distance and calories burned.

But experts say they are a step in the right direction when it comes to motivation.

"[They're] great for accountability more than anything," Berry said.

She says that when counting steps, Fitbits take into account things like stride length and how you swing your arms.

But she says there is a margin for error for times when you are not moving your arms, like when you are pushing a grocery cart.

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