As we strive to be our happiest, healthiest selves, many of us have certain health measurements burned into our brains. Walk 10,000 steps per day if you want to live a long life (and maybe even lose weight), drink eight glasses of water per day if you want to be optimally hydrated, get eight hours of sleep per night if you want to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed all day long.
While it's helpful to have these types of measurements in our back pockets, they may not be all that valid, or at least not as valid as they once were (for example, the gold standard for body temperature, 98.6, was established in 1851 and is probably outdated). That's why we asked a doctor what they think of these measurements. Here's the gist.
Eight Glasses of Water/Day
If you keep an oversized water bottle at your desk and guzzle it all day long in an effort to get your eight glasses of water per day (and sit less, of course), your efforts are commendable.
That being said, you probably don't need to freak out if you don't hit the eight-glasses-of-water-per-day mark every single day. "Good hydration is vital for good health and well-being," says Dr. Hannah Burdge. "We've all likely heard the advice to drink eight glasses of water per day. I think this is a reasonable goal, but you should note that studies that have tried to answer this question have produced varying recommendations."
Meet the Expert
Dr. Hannah Burdge, family medicine physician for Kaiser Permanente who is the chief of the Kaiser Permanente Ballard Medical Center in Seattle.
In other words, eight glasses of water per day is not a hard and fast rule. And hydration requirements differ depending on a variety of factors, including where you live. "An individual’s water needs depend on many factors. You’ll likely need more water if you live in a really hot climate, for example," Burdge explains. "But most healthy individuals can stay hydrated by drinking water and other fluids whenever they feel thirsty."
If you've ever been that person who takes an extra lap around the block after dinner to hit your 10,000 step goal, know that you can ditch that habit if you want: A 2019 study found that between 4,400 and 7,500 steps per day is probably fine.
"I personally shoot for 10,000 steps a day, most days of the week, and some days we do better than others," Burdge says. "The most important thing is that adults should get 30 minutes or more of moderate physical activity most days of the week. If you only have time for 10 minutes of exercise here and there, make sure it comes out to at least 30 minutes by the end of the day. The little things do add up, and it’s not always just the steps."
Eight Hours of Sleep/Night
This is a subject that has been studied extensively, and the CDC recommends that adults get at least seven hours of sleep per night. "Adequate sleep contributes to our overall health, learning, and well-being," says Burdge. "Not getting enough sleep is linked with many chronic diseases including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and depression."
If you struggle to get the recommended seven or more hours, Burdge recommends avoiding large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bed. "Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, relaxing, and at a comfortable temperature. And yes, remove those electronic devices! No TVs, computers, or smartphones. Being physically active during the day can help you fall asleep more easily at night at night, too."
Burdge notes that while they're not always perfectly on the nose, these are good measurements to keep in mind no matter what. "The most important thing is to know that sleep, water, and activity are important to our overall health and to always aim for our best in these areas." We'll cheers (with our water glasses) to that.