Many of us have heard that we should be walking 10,000 steps a day to stay fit and healthy.
Is this true and what’s the science behind the claim?
With the rise in smart watches and fitness tracker apps, many of us aim to hit the famous 10K mark, with our devices then vibrating and flashing congratulatory messages: Goal Achieved!
But did you know this magic number originally comes from a 1960’s Japanese marketing campaign, not from a scientific paper or from anyevidence-based research?!
Having said that, retrospective research has caught up, providing pleasing facts for us walkers. A recent study found that walking about 10,000 steps a day was not only linked to a reduction of cardiovascular disease (heart disease, stroke and heart failure) but a reduction in13 types of cancer, and dementia too.
A companion study found that for every 2000 steps walked a day, you could lower your risk of a premature death by a staggering 8-11%
And that’s not all. Walking has so many other benefits:
- It’s great for mental health, especially when we walk outside.
- It is one of the best low-impact workouts (great news for those carrying injuries).
- It can be sociable.
- And it’s good for weight loss: a long walk burns a good number of calories whilst not leaving you hungry (unlike an intense HIIT session which can leave you feeling starving!). Perfect for those wanting to achieve a calorie deficit.
Last month, the Chislehurst Fitness team set out to complete a steps challenge. How many steps could we, as individuals and as a group, complete in 31 days? We raised money for charity and there were prizes for the winners as extra motivation (it turns out there are some competitive souls within the group – who knew?!).
But the most interesting thing for mehas been what we’ve taken away from the challenge going forward:
- Many of us, in order to get those steps in, found that we had cut out our short car journeys completely. So much so, that one of the group is now thinking of selling their car!
- Lots of extra walks were planned with walking buddies – you probably saw them out and about inScadbury and beyond!
- Our families got involved too, with partners and children being dragged along for the ride (not to mention pets – there were a few tired dogs by the end of the month!).
So are 10,000 steps the be all and end all?
To be a blunt: no!
Firstly, any number of steps is better than no steps at all. Up to a point, the more active a life you lead, the better. If that’s only 8,000 steps a day but you’re doing your best, then keep it up!
For many of us, we simply don’t have the time to hit 10K every day.If you do have a sedentary day though, try and get moving more the next day to compensate.And, whilst walking is a brilliant form of exercise (we should all aim to do more of it), we should also complement our walks with more intensive exercise AND some resistance training.
Current NHS guidelines are that we should do 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, 75 minutes of vigorous activing, or a mixture of both, per week, and strength exercises twice a week too.
Where does walking fit in to this plan? If it’s fast walking (like you’re aiming for that earlier train but not quite jogging!), then that’s counted as moderate activity. Anything that raises your heart rate a bit, makes you breathe a little faster and perhaps gets you sweating counts. Gentle swimming, going for a bike ride, and skipping are also activities counted in this bracket.
Vigorous activity on the other hand is exercise that makes you breathe hard and fast. Whilst doing it, you probably won’t be able to say more than a few words at a time (although some of the ChisFit team still seem to manage!). Activities include interval sprints, cycling fast or up hills, boxing and circuit training. Doing these exercises regularly will really improve you cardiovascular fitness.
As for strength training, there are many ways to do this at home, or in a gym setting: Yoga, Pilates, lifting weights, and body weight exercises like squats and push-ups, are but a few examples. Why do we need to include this in our weekly activities? Because strength training increases bone density, improves our balance and posture, and prevents the onset of conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and dementia.
And let’s not forget about the vitalpsychological benefits such as improved mood and an elevated body image.
What can we conclude from all of this?
- Do count your steps if you find it motivates you, but remember there’s nothing special about the number 10,000. Set a goal that’s right for you, and know that a weekly target may well be more beneficial (I aim for anything over 84,000 steps a week, rather than 12,000 a day). Or throw away your tracker for good, and just keep moving!
- Try and add a couple runs (or another higher intensity activity) each week: fast enough to get a sweat on and to raise your heart rate.
- Schedule in a couple of strength sessions: Yoga, Pilates, Bootcamps…whatever works for you!
If you have any questions or comments on this, do get in touch with Matt from Chislehurst Fitness
The ChisFit team meet most days, either for outdoor sessions at Walden Rec or for indoor Boxercise sessions.