The average adult walks between 3000 and 4000 steps a day. Walking is something that we often don’t even think about as being a form of physical activity, but with an addition to goal-setting, walking can be an accessible activity to jumpstart fitness goals.
10,000 steps a day is the gold standard when it comes from counting steps and is recommended by the US Surgeon General. The idea of 10,000 steps dates back to the 1964 Japan Olympics, and has become the go-to measure for steps. 10,000 steps equals to about five miles. If you think you may not be able to make that many steps a day, the Center for Disease Control recommends 150 minutes of moderate activity a week, which breaks down to around 8000 steps a day. A pedometer is the easiest way to measure steps, however they cannot be used to measure intensity. If you don’t want a pedometer, a smartphone also works, as most recent smartphones have can measure steps taken as well.
Walking brings in several of the same benefits that regular exercise does including:
• Decreased stress. Taking a walk in the fresh air can not only improve mood, but by getting your mind away from your desk or couch can lower stress just by doing a different activity.
• Improved metabolism. By just sitting on a couch or a chair at work, your metabolism does not work as hard. Extensive walking can burn calories that would not be burned if you were only sitting. The more you walk, the more calories you burn and the stronger your metabolism can become.
• Improved strength. Walking increases the strength of your leg muscles, including the quadriceps, calves, and hamstrings. Combined with good posture, walking can also improve core strength in the abdomen. It also helps improve hip flexibility.
• Increased heart health. Walking can increase the heart rate. When done regularly, it can help reduce blood pressure.
• Improved health outcomes. Walking increases the heart rate and gets the body moving and can help reduce the likelihood of many health ailments. These include heart disease, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and depression.
Combined with diet and regular exercise, walking can be a great, easy to use tool for weight loss. 10,000 steps at 3-5 miles per hour equates to around 400 calories burned. Walking 10,000 steps every day can easily help with weight loss goals. So how do you get started? First, consult your primary care provider about any possible precautions you should take before walking regularly. Next, try adding walking to your regular routine. If you use public transportation, try walking to a bus or train stop further away. Try walking a dog; if you don’t have a dog, volunteer at a shelter as a dog walker. Schedule workday walks, putting time on your calendar to go on walking breaks. If you can get a coworker to walk with you for a meeting, even better. Use the stairs instead of using an elevator.
When you’re ready to walk, ease into walking to reduce strain and injury. Aim for consistency over a set time. Start small with a 30 or 40 minute walk. Once you can steadily do this, add more challenges to your walk such as changing your pace or add hills to your walk to exert more force and improve your heart rate. If you live in an area without hills, a treadmill is a great substitute for walking outside with controls to adjust inclines and speed.
It’s time to take the first step towards improving your health. By setting a goal of 10,000 steps a day, you are one step closer to achieving your fitness goals.