One timeless exercise that always proves insightful, and even fun, is to consider the various differences between the way people live today in comparison to how they lived in previous centuries. As technology continues to grow through human innovation, these differences expand and become more remarkable in the process.

As it pertains to physical fitness, exercise accompanied the daily routines of individuals prior to the industrial revolution. Now, people can avoid it while remaining responsible to any number of relatively lucrative jobs. Thus, they must structure workouts or habitual activity into their days.

Our ancestors likely would have laughed at the idea that anyone would count his or her steps when they walked everywhere for the duration of their lives, yet the practice is commonplace in the 21st century. Many of them would hit 10,000 steps each day with ease. However, reaching that number may not be as important as previously thought, according to a new study outlined in an article from the New York Post this week. Story author Kristen Fleming expounded on the study’s findings, including additional commentary from one of its co-authors, writing:

Since the dawn of our Fitbit, step-tracking culture, we’ve been programed to strive for 10,000 steps a day — and to feel guilty if we haven’t hit that daily benchmark.

But a new study out of Harvard Medical School says that less may be more when it comes to walking.

The study, published in the Journal of American Medical Association Internal Medicine, says that notching only half of that 10,000 number is linked to a decreased risk for early deaths in older women.

And the benefits might even flatten out after about 7,500 steps, making those extra 2,500 paces futile.

“You don’t need to get a lot of steps to see benefits in mortality rates,” co-author I-Min Lee, an epidemiologist in the division of preventive medicine at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, tells The Post. “People are hung up on the 10,000 number. They diligently try to get that number because it’s conventional wisdom, but it’s fun to question conventional wisdom.”

The study followed 16,741 women from ages 62 to 101 for four years. The women wore trackers to measure their step count and speed during their daily activities for at least seven consecutive days. (They didn’t wear the trackers while sleeping or doing water-based activities.) Throughout the study, they reported to researchers on their lifestyle, diet and medical histories. Of the group, 504 women died during the four-year time period.

Researchers found that women who averaged about 4,400 steps a day had significantly lower mortality rates than those who took only about half as many daily steps. The most active group — those who reached 7,500 or beyond — had a decreased mortality rate, but no added benefit came with hitting the 10,000 mark.

The article goes on to explain the origin behind the 10,000-step figure and its relevance to today’s fitness goals. Modesty may not be a popular word in the lexicon of most people these days, but it is essential in the transitional stage from a sedentary to an active lifestyle.

To read Fleming’s full writeup, click here.