Walking has many benefits, from helping you to maintain a healthy weight and lose body fat, to improving your cardiovascular fitness and strengthening your muscles.
However, is the 10,000 steps a day guideline realistic? And where did it come from anyway?
We don’t know about you, but we struggle to find time in the day to exercise for 30 minutes, never mind the two hours of walking it requires to reach 10K steps.
Let’s take a look at whether it’s worth the effort.
Where Did the 10K Steps Guideline Come From?
First things first, it’s important to understand where the 10K steps guideline came from. The “10,000” number actually dates back to a marketing campaign for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. A company began to sell a step counter called the "Manpo-kei":
- “Man” translates to 10,000
- “Po” translates to steps
- “Kei” means metre
It was a huge success. So much so, experts began to conduct studies to compare the health benefits of 5,000 versus 10,000 steps. Simply put, the higher the number, the better!
Australian researchers conducted their own studies and concluded that people needed to do around 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week to stay healthy. This is about 30 minutes for five days with two days off.
The average Australian adult does approximately 7,400 steps a day. Therefore, to get to the 10,000 steps target, you’d have to do another 3,600 steps.
What Happens When You Walk 10K Steps a Day
Some research suggests there are many benefits of walking 10,000 steps a day specifically. These include:
- Improving heart and cardiovascular health
- Boosting mood and cognitive performance, clearing your mind and making you feel happier
- Improving mental health, reducing stress and easing anxiety
- Lowering the risk or helping in the management of various conditions, such as heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes (the body was designed to move!)
- Stabilising blood sugar through a lower glucose and insulin response after a meal
- Warding off weight gain after being linked to weight loss at the end of a 12-week period
- Allowing the body to tone up, especially the legs and glutes
Just keep in mind that doing 10,000 steps a day may not be feasible for everyone — and that’s okay. Those with a chronic disease or office job may find it especially difficult.
Real or Myth: 10K Steps a Day?
The average person takes around 100 steps per minute. Ergo, it would take an individual about 30 minutes to walk a mile, or between four and five miles (approximately two hours) to reach 10,000 steps.
More recent studies have indicated that 4,400 steps a day would be enough to lower the risk of death in women. In fact, the more steps the subjects walked, the lower their risk of dying was. It levelled off at around 7,500 steps a day and no further benefits were seen.
In other words, the more you move every day, the more beneficial it can be for your health. Be sure to track your steps on your phone or use a pedometer if you do want to get in as many as possible. Either way, it’s important to stay active to look and feel your best.