While there is no doubt that being sedentary is not good for anybody’s health, what exactly is behind the notion that 10,000 steps a day is the number to aim for?
So where did this idea originate? It is believed to date back to the 60s when Japanese walking groups were gaining popularity. One particular pedometer manufacturer called their step-counter Manpo-Kei which translated into 10,000 steps meter. Their marketing slogan was “Let’s walk 10,000 steps a day.” Due to this catchy phrase the idea of aiming to walk 10,000 steps a day appears to have caught on.
It is believed that an inactive but otherwise healthy adult does on average 6,000 steps a day when carrying out their ordinary day to day activities. Therefore, in order to achieve 10,000 steps, they would need to do an additional 4,000 steps. Depending on several variables, this could be achieved by doing a brisk walk for 30 minutes. The official recommendation for exercise for an adult also happens to be 30 minutes of moderate activity, at least 5 times per week. This would mean that by including a brisk 30 minute walk each day, the 10,000-steps mark would be reached.
With that being said, increasing our physical activity enough to achieve around 10,000 steps per day may be beneficial to our health. There are of course many other ways of increasing our activity levels; however, there are also several issues to bear in mind with using step counting as a measure of activity level. Factors such as, devices may be inaccurate, or remembering to always have these devices with us may be problematic or impractical and factors such as differences in stride from one person to the next need to be considered.
The bottom line is that regardless of your daily step count, any increase in physical activity is almost always going to benefit your health. As a general rule, your goals should be based on your current level of activity and realistically trying to increase this – aiming for a minimum of 30 minutes, 5 times a week – be that by trying to reach 10,000 steps a day or one of the many other enjoyable ways this could be achieved. Also remember that these active minutes can be broken up into chunks. For example, three brisk, 10-minute walks a day to accommodate a busy schedule would be better than not doing any activity at all.
The primary aim of increasing our activity levels should be to achieve the ongoing associated health benefits by it becoming a lifestyle change that is sustainable in the long term.