Walking 10,000 steps a day is now widely recommended by exercise experts as a target number for improving your health.
The number was not developed from scientific research and it isn’t a magic number that will improve everyone’s health if everyone walks that much per day. Some people should walk less and some should walk even more.
There has been some research to support the health benefits of this recommendation. It has been linked to weight loss, increased physical activity and reduced blood pressure.
Additionally, those who walk between 5,000 and 10,000 steps a day are 40 percent less likely to develop metabolic syndrome, which is a condition that can predispose you to diabetes and heart problems. If your step count is 10,000 or more per day, you are 72 percent less likely to develop this condition. (for more information, see article listed below)
Another study from the University of Tennessee asked overweight women to wear pedometers. Half of the group was asked to walk briskly for 30 minutes, most days of the week, while the other group of women was asked to walk 10,000 steps a day.
The group who counted their steps averaged over 10,000 a day while the other group only averaged 8,270 to 9,505 on the days they DID meet their 30-minute goals, and only 5,597 on the days they didn’t exercise for 30 minutes.
This study indicates that setting your walking goal in a certain number of steps per day versus a certain number of minutes per day may be the best way to increase physical activity.
Can't meet your daily step goal? Don't despair! New research shows that as long as you walk briskly for 3,000 steps per day and avoid prolonged sitting, you can still achieve the same health benefits as those who walk 10,000 steps per day.
Bottom Line: Try to walk as much as you can every day. Better yet, try to walk briskly for 30 minutes per day. And, avoid long periods of sitting. If you must sit for long periods, set your timer and stand up for 1-2 minutes every hour.
It is equivalent to 5 miles a day. Most people only achieve 3,000 to 6,000 steps per day.
Therefore, this target number is roughly equal to the U.S. Surgeon General’s recommendation to accumulate 30 minutes of moderate activity above and beyond your normal daily activity on most days of the week.
This means that if you can find ways to add extra steps to your day, adding up to the recommended number, you will most likely be adding 30 minutes of moderate activity to your day as well.
However, if you are a very active person and your daily steps equal 9,000, you will need to increase your daily steps to 12,000 to meet the Surgeon General’s recommendation to get an extra 30 minutes of activity.
Counting your steps and setting a number above your current number of daily steps gives you something you can work toward and measure your progress.
The best way to count your steps is to use a pedometer. A pedometer is a small device that is clipped onto your waistband or belt and will count each step that you take. Of course they can do much more than that, such as tracking your total mileage and calories burned, but a simple one is all you really need to count your daily steps.
You can buy a good pedometer at a sporting goods store for about $15. Read this article and find the best pedometer for you.
Research has shown that those who wear pedometers increase their daily step total by more than 2,000 steps, which is equivalent to a mile.
Wear your pedometer and track your steps for five days to get a good idea of how many steps you take per day. If your daily step count is 6,000 less, than 10,000 steps a day will be a good goal for you.
If your step count is greater than 6,000, you will need to set your goal higher, up to 12,000 or 14,000 if you are looking to lose weight. Otherwise, 10,000 per day is a good number to maintain the current health benefits you are receiving from an active lifestyle.
Let’s say that you have found out that you take an average of 6,000 daily steps. Do not try to increase your steps to 10,000 tomorrow! You risk injuring yourself. A gradual approach is better.
Plan to increase your steps by 10% each week. So if you take 6,000 steps a day, you will plan to increase your steps to 6,600 steps next week, then increase by another 10% the next week until you reach the recommended number.
Looking for some fun and easy ideas to add more steps to your day? This article provides ideas to add more steps that you can start using today.
This research is cited in the November, 2010 issue of Good Housekeeping
magazine. Author of this research study is Peter Katzmarzyk, Ph.D., of
the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, LA.