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The Truth Behind 10,000 Steps

With the “Fitbit” craze in full force, it seems the awareness of our daily activity is abundant. Everyone is counting “their steps.” The new trendy number is achieving 10,000 steps. Where does that number come from, and what does it mean?

In 1995 the Center for Disease Control and American College of Sports Medicine recommended in order to maintain health, adults should exercise at “a moderate” intensity for 30 minutes, five days a week. Moderate exercise is as simple as a brisk walk! Many of us view exercise as jogging, biking, or sports. We say “I can’t exercise; I have not exercised in years!” Not true, we all walk. Heading outside with a friend or family member for a walk around the block may be all you need to stay healthy.

An “average” day without any extra physical activity will lead to between 4,000 and 6,000 steps(1). In order to achieve the 10,000 daily goal individuals need to add about 30 minutes of physical activity to the daily routine; thus hitting the healthy guidelines. It is important to recognize that hitting 10,000 steps may not hit the guideline. Similarly, you may achieve 30 minutes of moderate exercise without hitting 10,000 steps.

Benefits of Walking

With technology and work duties making hours of sitting in front of a computer increasingly prevalent, the need to set aside specific times for physical activity is crucial. Physical inactivity is linked to increased disease and morbidity (2). That may sound a bit dramatic. However, the trend in our country is dramatic, and alarming. Only 25% of Americans report regularly participating in leisurely physical activity, and only 50% report meeting CDC and ACSM guidelines (2).

Walking 30 minutes a day reduces the risk of obesity, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and even osteoporosis (3). Our muscles and joints also benefit from walking. Increased muscle strength and joint flexibility will improve your overall mobility and make daily tasks easier. No more getting winded after two flights of stairs or carrying in the groceries!

If the physical benefits of walking aren’t convincing enough, the psychological benefits are numerous. Increased physical fitness is linked with decreased levels of stress, increased self esteem, and improved overall mood. You don’t have to wait months to see results either; these changes can occur almost instantly. One study found that immediately following a brisk walk individuals had an elevated mood, increased concentration, and decreased levels of stress (4).

Excuses, Excuses…

What is everyone’s main excuse for not exercising? Lack of time. 30 minutes is only two percent of your day. We need to change the way we view exercise. It is not a punishment. It is not something you HAVE to do. Let’s rethink of exercise something we GET to do. 30 minutes a day you spend to work on YOU. As a health care professional, teaching you to value your health is my number one priority. Take the time for yourself.

I encourage you to get out this summer and start a walking program. For those new to exercising, beginning at ten minutes of brisk walking is an excellent starting point. Even short bouts of exercise (ten minutes) throughout the day are suitable for increasing ones level of fitness (2). Want to stick to the plan? Grab a friend. Exercising with a partner will make it more fun, and make you more accountable.

1. Choi, Bernard, Anita Pak, Jerome Choi, and Elaine Choi. “Daily Step Goal of 10,000 Steps: A Literature Review.” Clinical Investigative Medicine (2007): 146-51. Web
2. Haskell, William, I-Min Lee, Russel Pate, Kenneth Powell, and Steven Blair. “Physical Activity and Public Health: Updated Recommendation for Adults From the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association.” University of South Carolina Faculty Publication (2007): n. pag. Web
3. Warburton, Darren, Crystal W. Nicol, and Shannon Bredin. “Health Benefits of Physical Activity; The Evidence.” Canadian Medical Association Journal 174.6 (2006): n. pag. Web.
4. Roe, Jenny, and Peter Aspinall. “The Restorative Benefits of Walking in Urban and Rural Settings in Adults with Good and Poor Mental Health.” Health and Place 17 (2011): 103-13. Web.