10,000 steps a day is often recommended by health experts as a good level of activity for a healthy adult. It equates to about eight kilometres, or one hour and 40 minutes walking, depending on your stride length and walking speed.
If that sounds overwhelming, don’t worry – you don’t have to do all the steps in one walk. You will naturally accumulate steps through your day to day activities, but to reach the 10,000-step goal, you will likely need to do a 30-minute walk (or the equivalent in other exercise) as well.
Why 10,000 steps?
The recommendation of 10,000 steps a day originally came from Japanese researchers in the 1960s. Lead by Dr Yoshiro Hatano, a research team found that the average person took 3,500 to 5,000 steps each day – and that if they increased it to 10,000, they could improve their overall health and fitness. Dr Hatano’s calculations estimated that 10,000 steps could burn around 20% of an individual's caloric intake.
A few decades later, the 10,000 steps goal has been embraced by health organisations around the world as a simple motivational guideline. Today, health organisations including the World Health Organisation, the American Heart Foundation, the US Department of Health and Human Services, and Australia’s National Heart Foundation all recommend 10,000 steps a day as a sensible goal for improving your health and reducing risk of disease.
The good news is, this is an achievable goal for most people. Having said that, it’s a guideline only, and your age, health and fitness levels will influence what’s right for you. Elderly and chronically ill people might find 3000-5000 steps a more realistic target, while energetic kids and adolescents might do 15,000. If you’re not sure, consult a health professional.
Having the goal of 10,000 steps in mind is a good motivational tool that can help you focus your efforts throughout the day. In fact, a recent study found more steps are achieved if people have the goal of 10,000 steps in mind, rather than thinking about it as a 30-minute walk.
The benefits of walking 10,000 steps
So why bother? There are plenty of benefits of walking more. The Heart Foundation says walking can:
- boost your energy
- aid relaxation and clear your mind
- provide a sense of achievement and satisfaction
- improve confidence and mood
- help manage your weight
- promote healthier blood cholesterol and blood pressure
- build stronger bones and muscles
- reduce your risk of heart attack
This has been supported by numerous scientific studies. In 2010, a study of 60,000 corporate workers in 55 countries found that after eight months of aiming for 10,000 steps a day, 67% of participants reported an increase in fitness and energy levels. They also lost an average of 10 pounds (around 4.5 kg) each, just from walking, and many reduced their blood pressure as well. So get walking!
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