Tracking fitness is all the rage nowadays. Whether it’s with a basic pedometer, stylish fitness tracker, or an app on your phone, everyone seems to be documenting their activity levels and pushing themselves to reach goals or top their friends with their latest count. One of the major categories that many are obsessing over is daily step count, which is largely dominated by the magic 10,000 steps figure. Most fitness trackers even have this amount set as a daily goal, but should everyone be subscribing to this number?
First off, walking itself is definitely a positive force. No matter which way you look at it, walking leads to a number of benefits for your health, regardless of if it’s for exercise or just to get around. Walking regularly can help you maintain a healthy weight, increase the strength of your bones and muscles, improve your cardiovascular health, elevate your mood and reduce the risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes.
The origin of the 10,000 steps figure
So it’s clear that walking is good for you, but how much is enough to achieve these benefits? The 10,000 steps figure has been around since pedometers (step-counters) were first sold in Japan in the 1960s under the name “manpo-kei,” which translates to “10,000 steps meter.” At the time, there were no scientific studies to support this number, but the round and easy-to-remember number remained anyways. Once pedometers became popular in the U.S. many years later, 10,000 steps became associated with them and was prescribed by lots of fitness experts as a goal for overall health.
The truth of the matter is that like many other health recommendations, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Studies have shown that walking 10,000 steps every day has a positive effect on both mental and physical health; however, for some individuals, this amount of steps may not be enough, and for others, it might actually be too much. What is most important is if you’re serious about step counts, that you begin to walk more than you do on a usual basis. Keeping this in mind will help you keep your personal goals in mind and not get overwhelmed if 10,000 steps sounds like too lofty of a goal.
Here is one approach that will help you increase your daily step count:
- 1) Wear your pedometer or fitness tracker all day for one week and calculate the average number of steps you take each day; this is called your baseline
- 2) Try to increase your daily step count by about 1,000 steps each week
- 3) Continue to increase your step count by this amount until you reach about 8,000 daily steps; if you feel confident, keep going until you reach 10,000 (or even 12,000) daily steps; if you feel that 8,000 is your maximum, try to continue walking that amount of steps until you’re ready to increase it even more
- (For a frame of reference, walking at an average pace for 30 minutes equates to about 3,000 steps and 1.5 miles)
It’s also crucial to realize that walking alone—or exercise for that matter—will not lead to weight loss or major health benefits if it is not accompanied by a healthy, well-balanced diet. Finally, keep in mind that if you aren’t able to hit your step count every day, it’s perfectly all right to supplement it with other forms of physical activity so long as you achieve about 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week.
At ARS Hand & Physical Therapy in Springfield, NJ, we encourage regular walking and physical activity, to all of our patients in order to stay fit and avoid injury. We can help you by giving you tips to increase the amount of walking you do each day and offering exercise recommendations that are suited for you. Contact us at 973-379-7006 to schedule an appointment today, or click here for more information on 10,000 steps.