You know the drill by now. Get a fitness app or tracker and plan to walk in five figures every day to get healthy. For the last couple of years this magical figure has been sending banner notifications and celebratory buzzes to wrists and smartphone screens around the world – congratulating the recipient on another day of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
But what is 10,000 steps, from a fitness point of view? Essentially, from the perspective of everybody walking between 2 and 2.5 feet with every step, it’s like walking five miles. This equates to about 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day, but what about the other 23.5 hours?
Where did 10,000 steps come from?
To start with, making sure you nail that 10,000th step does add an extra digit to your daily tally, and it is quite difficult to sustain if you drive to and from work and don’t spend any time jogging or using a treadmill. This daily target really took off in the UK when the National Obesity Forum began to recommend 7,000 – 10,000 steps to help people lose weight.
However, way before then a Japanese company created a device called the manp-kei. This pedometer took off in Japan, prior to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, and the population took to trying to get their daily target of steps in to satisfy the device (not much has changed there, then!).
While 10,000 steps is certainly still recommended in Japan by the Ministry of Health, there are concerns elsewhere that it’s not actually enough.
Is it actually based on science?
First of all – yes. There’s no doubt that results back up the positive notion that 10,000 steps every day can be beneficial to health. But realistically that’s based on looking at people who don’t take anywhere near that many steps every day, so it’s actually just a case of being more active than sedentary. So while 10,000 could be a target for some, that doesn’t mean stop when it becomes a regular thing.
The main problem with the 10,000 steps every day goal, is that it doesn’t take into account the intensity of the exercise. For instance, somebody who works in a large office, and regularly pops around desks to see colleagues, could easily complete 10,000 steps even while spending an enormous portion of the day sat down, and the same could be said for spending an hour or so cleaning the house – even without leaving it.
Should I aim for 10,000 steps or not?
Translating the 10,000 steps routine a little differently, you can see that what’s really the focus is to be active for at least 150 minutes every week. So, three sessions in the gym or jogging would achieve this – and you could still try and get 10,000 steps in, in the meantime, to top up your fitness. A fitness boot camp by Prestige Bootcamp would also be a great place to test your current level of fitness – and complementing your activity with a healthy diet is crucial.
Essentially, this is why 10,000 steps every day doesn’t equal a healthy lifestyle. Without consistently challenging yourself with more intensive exercise, and ensuring that the food you fuel your body with is healthy, 10,000 steps may keep you active, but it won’t guarantee a significant boost to your long-term fitness.