For a long time, it’s been drilled into our heads that we need to get 10,000 steps per day for optimal health. But before you lace up your running shoes, strap on a fitness tracker and head out the door, have you ever stopped to think about where that number even comes from?

As it turns out, pretty much nowhere. Ten thousand is a nice, round number that somehow became the daily standard for a healthy number of footsteps, but research actually shows that you realize serious health benefits by walking far less than that.

4,000 steps a day is enough to boost longevity and lower risk of heart disease

A new study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology analyzed 17 cohort studies including 226,889 to find links between daily step counts and risk of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality. The researchers wanted to find the optimal number of steps you should take per day to lower your risk of heart disease and increase the length of your life — and they discovered it’s nowhere near 10,000.

The researchers found that mortality (from any cause) starts to drop sharply when you hit about 4,000 steps per day. But when you look at mortality from heart disease in particular, the risk starts dropping at just 2,300 steps per day.

Benefits vary by age, but more steps are still better

While there are huge health benefits starting at just a few thousand steps per day, the researchers did find that the benefits keep increasing the more steps you take. For every 1,000 more steps you take per day, you can see close to a 15% reduction in all-cause mortality risk, and for every extra 500 steps you accrue, the risk of heart disease may go down by about 7%.

And they found that age is also a factor — adults over 60 got the most benefit from getting between 6,000 and 10,000 steps a day, while those under 60 saw bigger benefits from getting between 7,000 and 13,000 steps.

All of this is to say that you shouldn’t aim to exercise less — you still get more health benefits from being more active. But getting 10,000 steps a day can be hard when you have a job, kids, hobbies and other obligations, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself.

Best walking shoes and fitness trackers for getting your steps in

Hoka One One Men's Running Shoes

Hoka One One Men’s Running Shoes

These shoes have excellent cushioning for superior comfort and shock absorption, plus breathable uppers and reliable, slip-resistant tread — and they’re stylish. In our testing, these were the best men’s walking shoes.

Sold by Amazon

Skechers Men's Go Walk Max-54601 Sneaker

Skechers Men’s Go Walk Max-54601 Sneaker

For a more budget-friendly option, these lightweight sneakers are comfortable, supportive and fit securely. In our testing, we found they offered the best bang for your buck in men’s walking shoes.

Sold by Amazon

Skechers Women's Go Walk 5-True Sneaker

Skechers Women’s Go Walk 5-True Sneaker

These sneakers put comfort first with a specialized insole and washable design. In our testing, these were the best women’s walking shoes.

Sold by Amazon

Garmin 010-02120-20 Forerunner

Garmin 010-02120-20 Forerunner

Reliable and trustworthy, this Garmin fitness tracker has built-in GPS so you can accurately track your route and pace. In addition, the ability to download playlists sets it apart from other models. In our testing, it was the best fitness tracker on the market — and it’s on sale right now.

Sold by Amazon

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Christina Marfice writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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