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Walking Further for Better Health… but why 10,000 Steps?

Whether it’s daily steps or weekly minutes… your activity levels are linked to your health. Fitness tracking devices are very popular at the moment. It’s easy to become fixated with your step count!

Karen Robinson of Shefford Osteopathic Clinic monitors her activity levels. She says:

“Many of my patients are now wearing fitness tracking devices, so I thought I would get one to see how I was doing. Due to my work I can’t wear a watch, so I looked at Which? to see what was recommended and bought a fitbit one. I synched it to my computer and started looking at the statistics.

The first thing I noticed was that 10,000 steps was already programmed as a goal to reach each day. The shocking thing is that I have now had my device for just over two weeks and I have yet to reach 10,000 steps! The closest I have come is 9,603 with my lowest day 3,178.

The second thing I have noticed is that it accurately shows when I am not moving. So the day I only did 3,178 steps I was on a course all day with a 45 minute drive each way. It clearly showed the times I was sitting in the car and then during the lectures.

I asked myself how I could increase my steps to 10,000, bearing in mind that I am pretty active and the stats do show that I am moving most of the time. Also why 10,000?”

The origins of the 10,000-steps recommendation aren’t exactly scientific. Pedometers sold in Japan in the 1960s were marketed under the name “manpo-kei,” which translates to “10,000 steps meter.” But the diet of those in Japan in the 1960s is very different from ours now. Data shows that the average intake in Japan then, was 2632 calories, whilst in the UK in 2014 it was 3,440! This is no good – especially as daily intake recommendations are 2000 calories for women and 2400 for men.

Studies conducted since then suggest that people who increased their walking to 10,000 steps daily experience health benefits.

But for those who are sedentary this may be a daunting or even intimidating task to start with. It may be better to encourage people to do no less that 5000 steps per day.

A large study of 334,161 Europeans that looked at the mortality rates in people with different activities levels found that “a markedly reduce hazard was observed between those categorised as inactive and this categorised as moderately active” – a 20 to 30% reduction!

We also need to be careful not to only fixate in steps, but to look at our nutrition as well. Doing 10,000 steps followed by eating a 500 calorie hamburger or eating junk food for the rest of day is not going to help us be healthy.

The most important thing is to increase your activity beyond what you were doing before.

5 Ways to Increase Your Walking

We are recommended to take 150 minutes of weekly exercise, so walking is a good place to start. Personally I found that walking my dogs really helped in getting my step count up. Here are some other ideas:

Make it a habit

The easiest way to walk more is to make walking a habit. Think of ways to include walking into your daily routine. Examples include:

  • walking part of your journey to work
  • walking to the shops
  • using the stairs instead of the lift
  • leaving the car behind for short journeys
  • walking the kids to school
  • doing a regular walk with a friend
  • going for a stroll with family or friends after dinner
Mix it up

Add variety to your walks. You don’t have to travel to the countryside to find a rewarding walk. Towns and cities offer interesting walks, including parks, heritage trails, canal towpaths, riverside paths, commons, woodlands, heaths and nature reserves. For inspiring walks, visit Walk England. For wheelchair users, visit Walks with wheelchairs and for parents with buggies, visit Walks with buggies.

Join a walking group

Walking in a group is a great way to start walking, make new friends and stay motivated. Walking for Health’s Walk Finder allows you to search for organised walks near you. Many of the walks are aimed at people who do little or no exercise, but who would like to become more active. The UK’s 15 National Parks run free guided walks for the whole family during the holidays.

Get your boots on

Ramblers promotes walking for health, leisure and as a means for getting around to people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities, in towns and cities, as well as the countryside. Its website has details of many locally organised walking groups, for all levels of fitness.

Set yourself a goal

You can walk 1,000 steps in around 10 minutes. Pedometers are a fun way to keep track of your walking. Use a pedometer to work out your average daily steps and then start adding extra steps.