The 10,000 Step Mantra



Manpo – Kei !

In continuation of my Japan influenced blogs, today I am writing about “Steps”.

These days it has become most fashionable to gift a a fitness tracker or a smart watch, that calculates the steps you take, the calories you burn. You can even put a target number of steps to take, and get prompted by your ” Fitness Gadget ” to move !

But, if you believe that fitness trackers and measuring steps is a modern day phenomena then you are mistaken.

Did you know that the first ” steps measure” was introduced in Japan in 1965?




It all started in Japan more than fifty years ago. Way back in the early 1960s there was a young professor at Kyushu University of Health and Welfare, who was studying about a rise in obesity in Japan.  His name was  Dr. Yoshiro Hatano.

Obesity in Japan ! Now, as we all know, Fitness has always been a part of Japan’s rich cultural heritage.  The Japanese are famous for their long lives and healthy eating habits. This seemed to be under threat in the post second world war prosperous Japan.  Dr Hatano was a worried man. He felt the Japanese might be in danger of importing obesity from the USA.

He started thinking of  a way to calculate the number of calories burned during exercise in order to help to lose weight. This would not only improve health but make the Japanese more active.

His studies showed that the average person walked 3,500 to 5,000 steps each day. As per his calculations, if this daily total number of steps was increased to around 10,000 then it would be possible to burn off approximately 500+ extra calories. In other words one could lose upto 20 kilogrammes a year !

The 10,000 step mantra was created.

Two factors were key for the popularity of this mantra in Japan.

First was the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games. It was the first time the Olympics were being held in Asia. It was the first time that it was broadcast on TV in colour. This had a major impact in Japan. Fitness and Health were back in the public consciousness.

Second key factor was the Manpo-kei. This was the invention of watch-maker Yamasa Tokei. It was a simole pedometer and was endorsed then by Dr Hatano. It was marketer in 1965 under the slogan ‘Let’s all walk 10,000 steps a day!’

Man means 10,000Po means Steps and Kei means Measure – and so the name Manpo-kei.

This became super popular in Japan and has continued to be a way of life there.

I first heard about this in 2014. I was first very sceptical about having a gadget around my wrist that would ” guide” me on fitness. I also thought the concept of being attached to technology for fitness was like becoming a slave to it.


I finally bought my first Jawbone in the spring of 2015. I then graduated to their various models. Currently I am wearing a Garmin. You could go for a Fitbit, an Apple watch, A Samsung watch – the list of options is tremendous and caters to all price points.

It’s when I started wearing a Fitness Tracker,  that I first realised that on a normal work day, if I didn’t do my cardio, I would only be doing 3000 odd steps. What I figured out was every km I walked was approximately 1000 odd steps. Ie a brisk 10 mins walk was 1000 steps. And that for achieving 10,000 steps, I needed to cover approximately 8-8.5 km.

Hence began my cardio regime where today I do 6-7 km every day. And try and cover between 12,000 – 13,000 steps every day.

Not only does this keep my weight in check, but I feel active and healthy.

And if I can’t hit the treadmill, I will just go for a walk.

And now that I know how to get to my target steps, I don’t even need a gadget to tell me anymore.


So go ahead and complete your 10,000 steps today !

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