Why Walking 10,000 Steps a Day Is the Magic Number
Via Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash
Walking has seen an uptick in popularity from walking challenges on social media, competitions to close fitness tracking goals with 10,000 steps a day, and uncovered health benefits. In fact, many argue walking for exercise is the new running.
But what makes walking so special and why is 10,000 steps a day the coveted number? Today we’re breaking down why walking is good for you, why 10,000 steps a day is the magic number, way to increase your daily steps, and how to be a safe and successful walker. Without further ado, let’s get into it.
- Walking is a low intensity, aerobic exercise with numerous health benefits
- Walking 10,000 steps a day has become a general benchmark, but research shows improved health benefits start from as little as 7,000 steps per day
- Daily habit changes such as opting to take the stairs or parking farther from store entrances helps increase steps taken
Why is Walking Good for You?
Walking is a low intensity, aerobic exercise providing ease to joints and bones while simultaneously providing cardiovascular health benefits. Research shows how intertwined exercise is with the rest of our body. Thus, it is no surprise that walking provides benefits beyond strengthening cardiovascular health. Walking works the entire body, creating long-lasting benefits from the brain to our bones. Taking regular walks helps…
- Strengthen joints and bones
- Improve muscle endurance
- Prevent and manage health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer
- Improve mood and sleep
- Increase energy
- Boost cognitive function
- Improve stability and balance
- Strengthen the immune system
- Reduce stress
Walking is the first step towards a healthier you. Less stress, improved sleep, stronger muscles, and reduced risk of disease creates compounding health and lifestyle including but not limited to a healthier gut, boosted productivity, and improved confidence.
Why Is 10,000 Steps a Day the Magic Number?
A Japanese doctor, Dr. Yoshiro Hatano, led a research team in the 1960s focused on promoting healthy lifestyle choices and combating rising obesity in Japan. The research team discovered that by increasing the average steps taken by individuals from 3,000 steps a day to 10,000 steps a day, they could combat rising obesity and reduce the risk of coronory heart disease.
By 1965, a Japanese company released a pedometer named the manpo-kei, which translates to “10,000 steps meter”. Dr. Yoshiro Hatano and his team's research along with the release of the catchy “10,000 steps meter” has led to over 40 years of research on walking and step goals.
The general consensus amongst researchers? 10,000 steps a day leads to improved health and has become a standard, general benchmark for physical activity across the globe. However, recent research conducted in 2019 indicates that 7,000-8,000 steps a day leads to accrued health benefits. Here are some findings from over the years.
- Higher step counts, 8,000 steps per day or more, were associated with lower death rates from heart disease or cancer (JAMA, National Institute of Health)
- Individuals taking at least 7,000 steps a day had a 50-70% lower risk of death compared to those taking less than 7,000 steps a day (JAMA, Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute)
- Total number of steps per day is more important than intensity of steps (JAMA, National Institute of Health)
Research conducted and published in the National Library of Medicine evaluated if 10,000 steps a day is an accurate, sustainable, and universal recommendation. Preliminary evidence from the study suggests 10,000 steps a day is reasonable for healthy adults, but may not be sustainable for older adults or those with chronic health conditions. Additionally, 10,000 steps a day is probably too low for children. Thus, a graduated step index based on age and abilities may serve as a better guideline for daily step goals.
All in all, walking 10,000 steps a day has become a general benchmark, but research shows improved health benefits start from as little as 7,000 steps per day.
Ways to Increase Your Steps Each Day
7,000 to 10,000 steps a day is a daunting number. Fortunately, there are easy habit changes to increase your daily step count.
- Take the Stairs
Rather than taking the elevator, opt to take the stairs.
- Create a Friendly Competition
Studies have shown competitiveness increases physical motivation. By creating a friendly competition in the office, in your home, or amongst your friend group to see who can get the most steps, you can increase your motivation and step count.
- Make Walking Enjoyable
Whether it is finding a beautiful trail, crafting an outstanding playlist, or finding good company to walk with, making walking enjoyable will help you feel motivated and eager to get steps in each day.
- Park far from store entrances
Parking farther from the entrance of a store allows you to get in a few extra steps walking in and out of the store. While it may seem silly to take the stairs or park farther from store entrances because the small number of steps is “trivial”, remember, any progress is progress!
How to Be A Safe and Successful Walker
- Invest in the right shoes
Investing in the right shoes protects your back, knees, shins, feet, ankles, and more. Factors to consider when investing in walking shoes include stability, cushioning, and fit for your foot. Everyone’s feet are different, thus, everyone’s “right” shoe is different.
Check out this article to learn more about the right type of shoe for you. Also, do not be afraid to swing by a running-shoe store as they can help you find the right shoe based on how you walk, your foot size, what arch support you need, and more.
- Protect Yourself From The Sun
If you opt to get your steps in by walking outside, it is important to protect yourself from the sun. Applying SPF before heading outside and wearing protective hats and clothes prevents overexposure to harmful UV rays.
Although walking is not a high-intensity, rigorous exercise, being properly hydrated is necessary to walk safely! Drink water before, during, and after exercise. You should also replenish electrolytes with a little bit of salt after.
Japan set a standard for walking in the 1960s with the release of their the manpo-kei. Research has continued to support 10,000 steps as a general daily step benchmark, however, recent studies indicate daily step benchmarks may vary. The research surrounding walking continues to evolve, but if there is one thing we know for certain, getting your steps in helps you become a more well-rounded, healthier individual.
Written by Lauren Conklin