Step it up – both inside and outside of work – and walk your way to a healthier you! In today’s post we’ll be looking at how many steps are enough plus some simple methods for setting and achieving the right targets for you personally.
There’s a long list of benefits associated with increasing your activity and walking everyday. We’ve covered the main ones, so take a look to see which motivate you the most…from calorie burn to better sleep patterns and plenty more besides.
But first of all, let’s find out a little more about the 10k target and where it all started…
Pick a Number…Any Number
In 1965 the Japanese manufacturer Yamasa introduced us to the Manpo-Kei – the world’s first commercial walking steps counter. It was marketed under the slogan “Healthcare with 10,000 Steps Per Day.” In fact, that’s where it got its name from – “manpo-kei” translates as 10,000 steps.
So surely a whole heap of research went into calculating how many steps made up the correct daily target for optimum health and fitness? Apparently, not so. It’s reported that the number was chosen because it sounded like a reasonable number to represent a healthy lifestyle, it had a certain ring to it and it was easy to remember.
Well, it certainly has stuck. It’s the number recommended by the US Surgeon General, the UK Department of Health and the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. It’s the default number of daily steps for your trusty Fitbit. 10,000 steps is the daily target most of us have heard of and believe in.
But is it a realistic and healthy target?
How Many Steps Are Enough?
More recently, a great deal of research has been carried out with regard to how many steps are enough or too few. According to the 2011 study by the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity….
“Normative data indicate that healthy adults typically take between 4,000 and 18,000 steps/day, and that 10,000 steps/day is reasonable for this population.”
Furthermore, it breaks down the different activity levels according to steps taken per day as follows:
<2,500 = basal activity
2,500 – 4,999 = limited activity
5,000 – 7,499 = low active
7,500 – 9,999 = somewhat active
10,000 – 12,499 = active
>12,500 = highly active.
Unsurprisingly, the study found that those who came under the “active” category enjoyed far better health than those at the lower end of the scale. (Click here for a link to the full study.)
But is a 10,000 daily step target right for you personally? If you’re a healthy adult, the consensus is that yes, it is, although this remains open for debate. It’s argued that older adults or those living with chronic illness should probably reduce the 10k target, whereas children need to aim higher.
“The average American walks 3,000 to 4,000 steps a day, or roughly 1.5 to 2 miles. It’s a good idea to find out how many steps a day you walk now, as your own baseline. Then you can work up toward the goal of 10,000 steps by aiming to add 1,000 extra steps a day every two weeks.” – The Mayo Clinic.
Setting And Achieving Your Targets
Step 1 – Where are You Now?
Before you can set any kind of daily step target, first you need to identify where you are now i.e. the average number of steps you take each day. Depending on how varied your days are, you might want to measure this over a week or two.
But how best to do this? A basic pedometer costs upwards of around $10 so you don’t have to break the bank. Simply wear it on your wrist and it will count the steps you take each day – no thrills, no spills, just a good old step counter. (Most calculate distance as well.)
If you want to splash the cash a little you could opt for a full on fitness tracker. These collect a wide range of data for walking, running, cycling and other activities. They can track speed, distance, calories burned, heart rate and blood pressure.
You can also set up activity goals – some track your locations so you can set specific targets according to terrain and exercise intensity. Some allow you to hook up with other fitness fanatics and compare results or set competitions. These range from around $20 and continue into the hundreds.
Step 2 – Where Do You Want To Be?
Whichever gadget you opt for, once you’ve calculated your average steps you have a benchmark to work from. Then you can start thinking about target setting. All number of factors will come into play here. Are your average daily steps higher or lower than you thought? Do you want to lose weight? Are you recovering from an injury? How are your general fitness levels?
If you’ve been living a fairly sedentary lifestyle for some time and your steps are therefore pretty low, a 10k target may be a little daunting. If this is the case, aim lower initially – for your own motivation and sanity. If you’re fairly active but really want to lose some extra pounds, aim higher.
Perhaps counting steps just doesn’t float your boat. If so, by working on the basis that 10,000 steps is roughly equivalent to 8 kilometers or 5 miles, you can set yourself a distance target and build up on that.
Or to look at activity targets from a different angle, the US Health Department recommends :
“For substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 150 minutes to 300 minutes a week of *moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes to 150 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity.”
(*Brisk walking = moderate-intensity activity.)
Whatever your method or motivation, doing more is a whole lot better than doing nothing. The key here is to be sensible and as with any new health regime, consult with your doctor first if you have any concerns medically.
Step 3 – Make it Happen
Well it sounds like a 10k steps target is realistic and let’s be honest, walking is something that most of us can do, it can be done almost anywhere and it doesn’t require any special equipment or an expensive gym membership. (Just make sure you’re wearing suitable footwear.)
So what can you do to hit your new activity goals? Here are just some of the ways you can add more steps to your daily total :
- Hold walking meetings
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator
- Go for a walk in your break times
- Walk to the local shops instead of driving
- Get off the bus a stop or two before the office
- Use a walking treadmill at work. (Click here for a list of our related articles.)
What other ways can you think of to add those extra steps to your daily / weekly routine?
Benefits Of Walking Daily
Whatever your target, and however you plan on measuring your progress and success, the benefits of walking daily are plenty! They include :
- improved circulation
- increased intake and flow of oxygen
- lower blood pressure
- lower sugar levels
- increased energy levels
- increased productivity
- reduced risk of heart disease
- calorie burn and weight loss
- improved mood
- reduced anxiety and depression and
- improved sleep patterns.
Also great for keeping your legs in shape and looking good. So what’s not to love about upping your step count and hitting the magic 10K?
The Walk Your Way Takeaway
Are you ready to walk your way to a healthier you? What started off as a pretty random number now seems to be the agreed target for our daily step count. But is the 10k target the right one for you?
To answer this, take a look at where you are now and work out realistically where you want to be. Take into consideration your general health and your fitness or weight loss goals. Then work out how you can add those extra steps to your daily and weekly routine.
Any increase in your activity levels is better that none, so if you’re struggling to get started for whatever reason, take a deep breath, give yourself a break, start small and work up to a level that’s manageable for YOU. (Please remember to speak to your doctor before starting a new regime if you have any health issues or concerns.)
There are many, many benefits to daily walking and it’s something most of us can do more of quite easily. As always we’d love to hear from you so drop us a line, let us know your targets and tell us how you managed to add those extra steps / miles / kilometers to your day. Post a comment in the box below or email email@example.com.