Companies that sell step counters often recommend 10,000 steps a day as a fitness goal. The medical community doesn’t fall totally, um, in step with a fixed goal for everyone, but even the Mayo Clinic uses 10,000 steps as a reference point when urging people to exercise according to their healthy lifestyle website. Last year we wrote about UnitedHealthcare’s Motion program that compensates participants who maintain specified activity levels measured with Apple Watches. In the Motion program, the highest level calls for 10,000 steps daily and is called “Tenacity”; it earns the most money per day.

Cedars-Sinai Department of Surgery has a new reward based on counting steps: you get to go home. In a 100-patient study published in JAMA Network Open, researchers in Cedar-Sinai’s Center for Outcomes Research and Education found that post-surgical patients shortened their stay in the hospital by 4% for every 100 steps taken. The study didn’t push for 10,000 steps, but did show that every patient step up to 1,000 the day following surgery correlated with significantly lower odds of a longer hospital stay. Patients in the study used Fitbit activity trackers which they were able to connect to the TV screen in their rooms to display their progress and to maintain motivation.

Earlier post-surgical release motivates patients, lowers costs of care, and frees up hospital resources for other patients. The Cedars-Sinai researchers are pressing forward with further investigations; next on the schedule is a randomized controlled trial to test the validity of the first study and to see if increased step counts further reduce post-surgical hospital stays.