Achieving a healthy lifestyle can be difficult without clear goals in mind, and one of the hardest things to both implement and measure is exercise. Walking is the perfect gateway into fitness and has myriad health benefits. Most people have heard of the recommendation to walk 10,000 steps a day, but what makes this number so significant, and is this goal as beneficial as it seems at first glance? The answer may surprise you.
Why 10,000 Steps?
The 10,000-step goal goes back to 1960s Japan. Originally, the 10,000 steps were part of a marketing campaign for pedometers ahead of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. The device was called the manpo-kei, or “10,000 step meter.” But the number wasn’t chosen at the recommendation of a doctor or exercise expert. It was purely based on aesthetics — “10,000” just looked appealing. But the number stuck around and became ingrained in the health world as an ideal exercise goal.
So, What is the Ideal Number of Steps?
Walking is considered a low-impact form of exercise, meaning anyone can engage in it regardless of their level of experience or fitness. While it might seem more laidback than weightlifting or running, walking has a ton of health benefits, such as reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke, strengthening bones, and improving heart and lung performance. Walking is also great for counteracting the effects of high blood pressure and depression.
Ten thousand steps is different for every person depending on their height and stride, but it averages to about 5 miles. Walking that much every day guarantees longer, more meaningful walks — which elevates your heart rate for a more extended period. But, it's not a magic number.
In fact, recent research suggests just 4,000 steps a day is enough to have significant health benefits. The study found that the risk of death from all causes decreased 15% with every 1,000 daily steps taken. So while 10,000 steps is a fantastic number to strive for, it's not necessarily the end all be all. Instead, everyone should take into account their own fitness level, health, and lifestyle to set a number that is achievable for them.
How to Achieve Your Daily Steps
Walking 4,000 to 10,000 steps may seem like a formidable goal, but there are ways to make reaching it easier. Starting with a daily 30-minute walk is a great way to begin your step count. You can also cap your night off and take the same walk after dinner.
Aside from dedicated walks, reaching your step goal can be achieved in several simple ways that won’t feel like “exercise.” For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator, park further away from the store than usual, or walk around your house during television commercial breaks. Running, recreational sports, joining a walking group, and even walking the dog are also good ways to up your step count for the day.
Another good way to increase your step count is by dividing your day into an even number of steps. By breaking your time down into 1,000 steps at a time, you have a smaller, more achievable goal to work towards five times a day instead of being overwhelmed by attempting to reach the full goal.
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