Take two of these and call me in the morning is the most infamous prescription line. It’s hardly the only wellness recommendation we know by heart, but do we actually know where any of them come from? From 8 hours of sleep per night to 8 glasses of water each day, “they” are always telling us the numbers by which we can live a healthy life.
Would you be surprised to learn that some of them are baseless? We looked in to some of the most popular number-based recommendations to learn which are making short cuts and which are overselling themselves. Maybe you’ll feel a little less pressure from now on.
8 glasses of water per day
Eight 8-oz. glasses of water is what we’re supposed to drink every day, or so we’ve been told. The Mayo Clinic affirms the recommendation holds because the “8×8” rule is easy to remember. But it’s actually not quite enough! Those 64 ounces are equivalent to 1.9 liters. The Institute of Medicine says men need 3 liters and women need 2.2 liters. So drink up! The good news is “all fluids count toward the daily total,” says Mayo. Water, hot or iced tea, a sports drink, juice, or even a beer count toward your fluid intake. Intense exercisers and breastfeeding moms are just a couple examples of people who likely need even more than the basic recommendation.
10,000 steps per day
This distance is about five miles, or the amount “they” say we’re supposed to walk every day. There’s no specific science or research to back it up. When used against the CDC’s fitness recommendations, they have Americans hitting about 7,500 steps per day. But given how sedentary most Americans are, it’s best that we encourage people to walk as much as they are willing to do. The average American walks just under 6,000 steps every day, so anything you’re walking beyond that is good for your overall health.
10 pounds gained during the holidays
That dreaded holiday weight gain that everyone makes such a big deal about? It’s really just about one pound. Yep, just one, according to Dr. Tom Rifai, Reality Meets Science LLC co-founder & Harvard Lifestyle Medicine course director for Nutrition & The Metabolic Syndrome. We recently spoke to him about what happens to our bodies when we overeat and he surmised that while a one- or two-pound gain during the holiday season isn’t that bad, it’s that “we never get rid of it.” Add up a couple of extra pounds year over year and you’ve got a problem.
60 minutes a day of exercise
An hour of physical activity everyday? Seems impossible sometimes but certainly not ridiculous. Well, if it feels like too much you’re in luck. The CDC recommends for American adults that we get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise every week. That’s 21 minutes a day, or 30 minutes most days of the week. Plus we need two days’ worth of muscle-strengthening exercises. Kind of like walking 10,000 steps everyday, just as long as you’re doing something it counts! Even the CDC recommends taking it 10 minutes at a time!
2,000 calories per day
Apparently this number came about as a short-cut the FDA made to keep food labels short and concise. According to this article by Marion Nestle, an esteemed and respected nutrition professor, author, and all-around expert, 2,350 calories was the more sensible total but it seemed too complicated to put on a label. Anyone worth their low-sodium salt knows that there is no one-size-fits-all calorie prescription. Based on your gender, age, weight, height, and other factors (like menopause and breastfeeding), your calorie needs will vary. A BMR or calorie calculator is your best bet to determine individual needs.
8 hours of sleep
Does early bed, early to rise really make you healthy, wealthy, and wise? We aren’t sure what sleep will do for your finances, but we know for certain that adequate sleep is imperative to overall wellness, not to mention the mental acuity to make you wise. The eight hour rule rings true, as the CDC recommends adults get 7-8 hours of sleep per night. The CDC and some research support that there is no magic number though, and much like calorie intake, every body is different and yours may need more or less hours of sleep.