The original concept of a step challenge emerged in 1965, when a Japanese watch-maker invented a pedometer called the Manpo-kei.
According to this blog in Japan, the fitness gadget “was marketed in 1965 under the slogan ‘Let’s all walk 10,000 steps a day!’ In Japanese Man means 10,000, Po means Steps and Kei means Measure – and so the device became the Manpo-kei. This simple motivational gadget became so popular that the trade-name fixed itself in the Japanese lexicon to the extent that today, although the accurate Japanese word for a pedometer is 歩数計 or hosuukei, like Hoover and Jacuzzi the brand has become synonymous with the product.”
The original Manpo-kei’s use of 10,000 steps may also be the origin of today’s idea that 10,000 steps are essential for long term health. It turns out plenty of research suggests 5,000 to 7,000 steps are just as good.