Fitness trackers like FitBit have been programmed to deliver little animated fireworks and streamers when a user hits 10,000 steps in a day, but you may not need to walk that far to see benefits, a new study has found.

The benefits of walking for older women, in particular, maxed out at about 7,500 steps, according to researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

Women who walked around 4,000 steps per day, far fewer than the 10,000 goal, increased their lifespan compared to women who took fewer steps.

More specifically, women who took 4,400 steps per day had better health outcomes, than women who took fewer than 2,700.

The women included in the study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, averaged 72 years of age.

These findings could help improve women's health by pointing them to a more realistic goal to achieve, like 4,000 steps a day, or between one and two miles.

"I think because [10,000] is out in the media so much if someone only gets 3,000 [steps] they get discouraged and give up."" said Dr. Nessreen Rizvi, an internal medicine specialist with Henry Ford Health System in Michigan.

So why have people been told 10,000 steps should be the goal?

The study's lead researcher, Harvard professor I-Min Lee, says it could go all the way back to the marketing of a pedometer sold in Japan in 1965.

"It likely derives from the trade name of a pedometer sold in 1965...called Manpo-kei, which translates to '10,000 steps meter' in Japanese," Lee notes.

JAMA Internal Medicine

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