If you have a smart pedometer or fitness tracker such as a Fit bit, it is likely the device will encourage you to take 10,000 steps per day. Do you need to walk this much to be healthy?
Maybe, but any amount of activity beyond what you’re currently doing will likely benefit your health.
The origins of the 10,000-steps recommendation aren’t likely that scientific. As an example, pedometers sold in Japan in the 1960s were marketed under the name “manpo-kei,” which translates to 10,000 steps meter. As a result, the idea gained popularity with Japanese walking groups. But, this spurred scientific research and studies since that time suggest that people who increased their walking to 10,000 steps daily experience health benefits.
One study found that women who increased their step count to nearly 10,000 steps a day reduced their blood pressure after 24 weeks. Another study of overweight women found that walking 10,000 steps a day improved their glucose levels.
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Walking 10,000 steps a day is not an official recommendation from groups such as the CDC who recommends adults engage in 150 minutes of moderate activity a week, such as brisk walking. It is ironic however that to meet the CDC’s recommendation, you need to walk about 7,000 to 8,000 steps a day.
How do you Measure Up?
The average person walks about 3,000 to 5,000 steps each day thus, getting in an extra 30-minute, brisk walk into your day would take you to about 8,000 steps. There is no scientific reason to stop at this amount because in this case, more is likely better for you. As an example, the Mayo Clinic recommends that people using pedometers first set short-term goals, such as taking an extra 1,000 steps daily for one week, and then build up to a long-term goal such as 10,000 steps.
The idea is to just get started. Why? Because it’s much better to be active health wise than not. And, as you age, those who have been and remain active have a much better chance of better health. Also, studies show that healthy adults get anywhere from 4,000 – 18,000 steps per day.
Below is our 10-week plan – a general guide only – to help you gradually increase from the average 3,000 steps a day to 10,000 steps a day.
As always, progress at a pace that is realistic for you – too much too soon is why many do not continue exercise programs:
Start with your current activity level, for example, if you currently get 4,000 steps a day, start with Week 2 instead of Week 1.
Goal – increase your steps from 3,000 a day to 3,500 a day.
You can do this by adding an extra 500 steps per day, which is equivalent to walking an extra ¼ mile. The average time to achieve this is about 4-8 additional minutes, which depends on your walking pace.
Goal – increase your steps to 4,200 a day – this is 29,400 steps per week. Note you are now adding 1,200 steps per day or about 12 minutes more time per day. Since you normally get about 3,000 steps per day doing basic tasks, think of this as a pure 12-minute walking day.
As with dieting, extra calories on one day, make up for less calories on another. Likewise, steps from a very active day can help make up for missing steps on a less active day.
Goal – increase your steps to 5,000 per day. This ups your rate 2,000 steps per day or approximately 20-minutes of walking after the day’s work.
Goal – increase your steps from 5,000 to 5,800 per day – you now have added another 7 minutes on top of last week’s 20-minutes per day.
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Goal – increase to 6,500 steps a day.
This is an increase of 700 steps per day from week 4, which is about 1/3 mile or 5-10 minutes of walking depending on your pace – now, you’re up to 25-30 minutes of walking per day. The additional steps can be accumulated at one time or broken up throughout the day, whether at work, home, or play.
Goal – increase from 6,500 steps per day to 7,200 steps per day. Note this is another 700 steps and will be about the same increase as Week 5 and ups your time to about 30-35 minutes of walking per day. At an average pace of 2,300 steps per mile, you will have walked about 3 miles.
Goal – increase to 8,000 steps per day. This is an increase of 800 steps per day over week 6 – about 0.35 miles or, another 7 minutes per day, bringing you up to about 40-42 minutes of walking time.
Goal – increase to 8,600 steps per day or 600 steps per day more than week 7.
Goal – increase to 9,400 steps per day – 800 more steps per day than week 8.
Goal – increase to 10,000 steps per day or 70,000 steps per week. This is approximately 4 1/3 miles per day or about 60-70 minutes of walking at a brisk pace.
You can always continue to increase your steps per day if you wish; time is a factor and many people will state that is an inordinate amount of time. However, your health is priceless and because walking is essentially mindless, you can listen to music talk business or to friends on your phone, think about goals, strategize how to run your next management session and so on – the things you can do while you walk, in today’s age of technology are many. Thus, there is no justification to use time as an excuse.
The big question is, “Do you want to be as healthy as you can be when you turn 65 or older or, do you want to be able to look down and not see your feet because your belly is too big, and you are perhaps plagued by diabetes or other maladies? The choice is entirely yours.