You’ve probably heard about the benefits of walking 10,000 steps a day, but you may be wondering if you can get fit and be healthier doing less.
The truth is that any amount of activity beyond what you are currently doing will benefit your health and cardiovascular fitness and help you to lose or maintain your weight.
So why 10,000 steps? The answer to that question is not science-based. In Japan in the 1960s, a pedometer called Manpo-Kei hit the shelves and caught on.
The literal translation of Manpo-Kei is “10,000 steps meter.” So while initially a marketing ploy, in the intervening years, numerous studies have been undertaken on the health benefits of walking 10,000 steps a day. We look at some of these below.
Studies on the Benefits of Walking 10,000 Steps a Day
A recent study proved that people who walk 5,000 to 10,000 steps per day have a 40% lower incidence of developing metabolic syndrome which can be a precursor to Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The study also showed that taking 10,000 or more steps per day lowers the risk of metabolic syndrome by 72%.
A University of Tennessee study followed two groups of overweight women who used a pedometer for the duration of the research. Half of the participants took a brisk 30-minute walk several times a week. The other half walked 10,000 steps several days of the week.
The women who timed their exercise averaged between 8,270 and 9,505 steps on the days they walked for 30 minutes, and just 5,597 steps on their exercise-free days. The other women consistently went beyond their daily 10,000 step target. The conclusion was that walking a set number of steps each day rather than a certain amount of minutes can be the most reliable way to become more active.
Another study showed that adult females with elevated blood pressure who began walking 10,000 steps a day reduced their blood pressure after six months.
Research also showed that overweight women who began walking 10,000 steps a day were able to improve their blood glucose levels.
Additional studies have shown that people who exercise at this level can reduce their waist size and Body Mass Index (BMI). A further benefit is an increase in energy levels.
The results above highlight just a handful of many studies that have shown that brisk walking undertaken regularly can improve health, manage weight, and ultimately reduce heart attack risk.
How Many Miles are 10,000 Steps?
10,000 steps are the equivalent of 5 miles. The average person takes between 3,000 and 6,000 steps in their day-to-day life. To get in 10,000 steps, the U.S. Surgeon General recommends 30 minutes of moderately-paced cardio exercise such as walking most days, in addition to your usual activities.
If you are very active, you may already be taking 9,000 steps each day. This does not mean you should only walk for an extra ten minutes a day. Getting an extra thirty minutes of activity will bring your step count to around 12,000, and you will reap the benefits.
What if I Can’t Walk 10,000 Steps a Day?
Walking 10,000 steps a day has proven to be the sweet spot. As a result, the American Heart Association (AHA) now recommends this level of activity. While this is worth aiming for, the Surgeon General recommends a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate activity each day. At around 5,000 steps, this is half the amount of exercise recommended by the AHA.
If you can’t find a thirty-minute chunk of free time to walk, don’t despair. The latest research shows that three brisk ten minute daily walks brings better results than a half hour half-hearted effort. The idea is to get your heart pumping.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest 150 minutes of moderately paced activity per week. For most people, this is the equivalent to taking approximately 7,000 to 8,000 steps a day.
The good news is that any increase in physical activity will have advantages if you are consistent. Some benefits you can expect include a reduced risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. A lowering and stabilization of high blood pressure. And weight loss if you are overweight, or easier weight maintenance if you aren’t.
In fact, new research has shown that people who take a 3,000 step brisk walk each day and avoid prolonged sitting, can get the same health benefits as those who walk 10,000 steps per day. The one downside is that walking less will not result in as much weight loss. If your job requires you to sit for extended periods, set a timer and get up and walk around your office for a minute or two every hour. This will enable you to get in some extra steps and burn additional calories.
How to Track Your Steps
Research shows that people who track their steps increase their daily step count by around 2,000 a day, which is the equivalent of a mile.
You can track your steps with a fitness tracker such as a smartwatch. Most will also enable you to monitor your mileage and how many calories you burn.
If you only want to track your step count, you can use a pedometer. A smartphone is another option. Use the Apple Health App if you have an iPhone or the Google Fit App if you have an android.
How to Increase Your Step Count
Track your steps for a week, noting how many you do daily. If you take 6,000 or fewer steps a day, increase this to 10,000 over time. A good way to do this while limiting the risk of injury is to add an extra 1,000 steps weekly. If you find this too much, increase your step count by 10% a week. In other words, if you are currently taking 5,000 steps, increase this to 5,500 for a week. The following week, walk 6,000 steps a day, and so on and so forth.
If you already take 6,000 steps plus a day, work towards 12,000 or 14,000 if you want to lose weight. To maintain your current weight aim to take 10,000 steps a day.
Benefits of Walking 10,000 Steps a Day Summary
There’s no disputing the benefits of walking 10,000 steps a day, but as you can see, you can get away with doing less.
Regardless of which of the recommended guidelines you choose to follow, increasing your daily step count can improve your health and fitness. Do more next week than you are doing this week, and you will soon reach your goal.
You may also like this article on the benefits of walking for 30 minutes a day