The Exercising Myth About 10,000 steps a day
A marketing campaign — not true science — is behind one of most hyped fitness routines.
These days it is hard to walk the streets without running into someone who is anxiously looking at their wrist to see if they are on target to reach the magic 10,000 steps.
Is it really a goal worth striving for, or might there be something better?
And where did that figure come from?
If you own a pedometer or any other kind of activity tracker you’ve probably held yourself to a 10,000-step goal. But, surprisingly, that magic number was part of a marketing campaign and is not backed by real science.
A Japanese company is credited with starting the trend in the mid-1960s with the launch of a pedometer called Manpo-Kei, which translates to the “10,000 steps meter.” Walking clubs popped up and by the late 1990s, the 10,000 steps fitness routine swept the world, becoming the unofficial standard for ensuring good health and fitness.
The truth is, there is no harm in encouraging people to walk 10,000 steps. In fact, 10,000 is a nice, even number that translates to about five miles for most people. But is it the right number for you? Do you struggle to do this daily? Have you found that if you wave your arms around or go over a bump in the car that your steps have miraculously increased!
It is normally recommended to do at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. That’s two hours and 30 minutes — less than the length of some movies — spread out over a week. However, whether this is enough exercise for you will depend on your current level of activity and your fitness goals.
‘Knitting is my only activity’
In a recent experiment in which they compared the benefits and ease of doing 10,000 steps against something called, “Active 10”
With Active 10 you don’t need to count steps. You simply aim to do three brisk 10-minute walks a day.
The volunteers all had different reasons for wanting to get fitter.
Some of the volunteers who took part in the test
Stefan said: “I’m very aware that I’m not as fit as I used to be and I’ve put a lot of weight on,” while Sharon confessed: “My only activity at the moment is knitting.”
And Neil, who has a six-year-old daughter, said: “She runs so fast, and I run so slowly, I can’t catch her up.”
The small group of volunteers was fitted with activity monitors so they could not only monitor what they did, but also how vigorously they did it.
Firstly, a normal day’s activity was measured.
Then they were split them into two groups. One was asked to hit the 10,000-step target – around five miles – in a day, while the other group was asked to do three sessions of “Active 10” – which adds up to around 1.5 miles – more like 3,000 steps.
The Active 10 group were also told that their aim was not to amble but to get their pace up so that they would be working their heart and lungs. The aim was for them to walk fast enough so that you could still talk but not sing.
When the results were reviewed, two out of the three asked to do 10,000 steps had managed to hit their target. But they had all struggled.
The Active 10 group, on the other hand, had found it relatively easy. They had formed a small walking group and met together at convenient times during their working day to go for a brisk walk together.
So 10,000 steps was harder to achieve – but which activity was better for health?
Better to go briskly…
The data was analysed from their tracking monitors and the findings were very clear.
The Active 10 group actually did 30% more ‘moderate to vigorous physical activity’ than the 10,000-step group, even though they moved for less time.
It is suggesting that when you are doing moderate intensity activity, you are starting to get the greatest health benefits.
So even though the Active 10 group spent less time actually moving, they spent more time getting out of breath and increasing their heart rate.
What you really need to do is to get your heart beating faster. There’s lots of evidence to suggest that by doing so you can lower your risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers. So three short brisk walks were easier to fit into the day and better for health.
Still want to use that Christmas Present – all is not lost
The best way to find out is to get started. Using a pedometer, fitness tracker, or smart phone app, track your steps on a daily basis to establish a baseline. The number of steps will most likely be lower than 10,000 per day, but if you have an active lifestyle, your benchmark may be higher.
Set mini fitness goals
- Park farther away from the front door at work
- Take the stairs instead of the lift
- Find a walking buddy to help you stay on track
Gradually, your stamina will increase.
Being fit has a pleasant side effect: weight loss. To keep from becoming a statistic in the overweight or obese category, you must burn more calories than you consume.
Consider this simple equation: One pound equals 3,500 calories; 10,000 steps burns 400 calories or more, depending on how fast you walk. If you work your way to 10,000 steps a day, you can lose a half pound in a week.
Use the 10,000 steps rule to get up and off the couch, then increase your activity as your stamina and fitness level allows.
The benefits of walking include having better cardiovascular health, burning calories and enjoying the world instead of staying in your room watching TV.