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Is 10,000 Steps a Day Enough?

Is 10,000 Steps a Day Enough?

There is no better feeling than reaching your daily activity goal. Even if you aren’t into the fitness-tracking trend and don’t sport a Ftbit bracelet or log into Strava each day, you probably know when you’ve “done enough”.

You may prefer to take the stairs at work or maybe you like to get off the bus a few stops early and walk the rest of the way. Or you are a die-hard fitness bracelet wearing “tracker”, and you are dedicated to hitting your daily target of 10,000 steps. It is this number, around eight kilometres, that is said by the health experts to be the waistline shrinking magic number and as a way of preventing heart disease.

Now those of us that believe in brisk walking can feel confident. A study by the London School of Economics and Political Science has found that a brisk 30-minute walk (roughly 3000 steps) is more effective at weight maintenance than jogging, swimming or even hitting the gym.

You may have wondered if 30 minutes is enough or if there is a stepping number for the best results?

Most of today’s fitness trackers are pre-set at 10,000 steps, and this is thought by many to be the ideal daily walking target.  Interestingly, what keeps most steppers loyal is the ease with which this figure can be accumulated each day by picking up the kids from school or even going to the gym.

As most of our generation lead a sedentary lifestyle, this is an appealing option. However, health authorities and those knowledgeable know how ineffective this method is and, that the 10,000-step figure as a benchmark for improved health was chosen with little supportive scientific evidence.

The figure’s history is attributed to the development of the first pedometer in Japan in the late 1960’s called Manpo-kei or “10,000 steps meter” a marketing term designed to sell a product. If we think 10,000 steps is the solution to our thickening waistlines, then we are mistaken.

The issue is that 10,000 steps is proclaimed to be the miracle quantity — the way to prevent disease caused by inactivity — but it’s just a rough guide and it’s not enough!  

Apparently, a study in the International Journal of Obesity,  monitored Scotland’s postal workers. Comparisons were made between the health of postal workers who delivered mail on foot with those who sat at their desks. Findings showed that 15,000 steps appeared to be the real miracle number, since those posties had waistlines in the normal range and no increased risk of diseases linked with being sedentary. Additionally, the study found that for every hour spent sitting down past five hours, workers had a 0.2 per cent increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Walking faster can cut down the number of steps if walking longer distances isn’t your preference. If you are jogging or running your steps, then the higher intensity means that you can reduce the figure in half. If that doesn’t sound attractive then confirmation that, for some, 10 000  steps or any activity is better than none is reassuring.

A report in UK medical journal The Lancet, indicated  that  2000 medium paced steps (or 20 minutes) a day of regular activity could help reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes by 8% per cent among those most vulnerable, and that adding an extra 4000  steps (or 40 minutes of walking in addition to normal daily movement) could achieve the same benefits as taking a cholesterol-lowering drug.

Another  study conducted by the US National Institutes of Health showed that 6000 or more steps a day is able to protect those with or at risk of getting osteoarthritis of the knee and from suffering serious mobility problems.

For most of us the recommendation is to continue walking and to not stop, even if your fitness tracker signals that it’s alright to reduce steps or to stop for the day.

If 10,000 steps aren’t enough, how many steps are needed each day and, how do we know we are getting the right number of steps? According to an article from the Personal Training Academy it is as follows.

3000 STEPS

Distance: 2.4 kilometres.

What it means: 6 laps of a running track.

Approximate time taken: 30 minutes.

Category: couch potato/sedentary.

5000 STEPS

Distance: 4 kilometres.

What it means: 10 laps of a running track.

Approximate time taken: 60 minutes.

Category: people who walk less than this are sedentary.

10,000 STEPS

Distance: 8 kilometres.

What it means: 20 laps of a running track.

Approximate time taken: 1 hour, 40 minutes.

Category: walk 5000 to 7499 steps daily and you have what’s considered to be “a low active lifestyle”; 7500 to 9999 steps a day and you are “fairly active”.

15,000 STEPS

Distance: 12 kilometres.

What it means: 30 laps of a running track.

Approximate time taken: 2 ½ hours.

Category: should be a minimum target if you are already generally active but want to lose weight.

20,000 STEPS

Distance: 16 kilometres

What it means: 40 laps of a running track

Approximate time taken 3½ hours.

Category: about 18,000 steps is a good target for fitness and weight loss if you are already fairly active.

25,000 STEPS

Distance: 20 kilometres.

What it means: 50 laps of a running track.

Approximate time taken: 4 hours and 15 minutes.

Category: goal for couch potatoes who want to lose weight.

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