About those 10,000 steps a day

About those 10,000 steps a day

Hands up anyone else who gleans quiet satisfaction from completing their daily step goal?

I certainly do.

We’re all familiar with the oft-quoted “10,000 steps a day” mantra, which is widely accepted as a goal we should accomplish in order to become/stay healthy.

BUT – and here’s the thing – it turns out that 10,000 steps a day isn’t a scientific figure at all.

It’s pretty much a figure pulled out of a hat, since the idea of taking 10,000 steps a day came from a Japanese marketing campaign in the mid-1960s, aimed at selling pedometers.

Kudos to whoever dreamed up that campaign, by the way, because nearly 60 years later, we’re all still using it as a benchmark :)

In the last few days, there have been a couple of interesting articles discussing the optimal number of steps we should all be taking every day, and – surprise, surprise – it isn’t 10,000. Spoiler alert: just 2,337 steps a day can help cut your risk of cardiovascular disease.

There are so many factors involved in exercise – age, weight, location, weather, current health & fitness levels, as well as one’s fitness objectives and, more prosaically, the time available to put in all those steps, so there is no one solution that fits all.

Some people will exercise specifically to lose weight. Others to train for a race.

All of this needs to be taken into consideration when deciding on walking goals, but one thing is not up for discussion – walking, any amount, is good for you. Period.

“There is strong evidence showing that sedentary life may significantly increase the risk of cardiovascular (CV) disease and shorten the lifespan.”

Since I am not a doctor, nor a scientist, nor a fitness professional – simply an enthusiastic amateur – I shall not presume to offer advice about the amount one should/should not walk every day. There is more than enough information available online, so I’ll limit myself here to general advice.

Like this chart (below) that can act as a useful starting point, for people unsure how much they should walk:

There are so many easy ways to get some steps in without too much change of routine to your day – for example, walk up and down while you’re talking on the phone, rather than sitting at your desk.

Park the car a little bit away from your destination.

Take a walk break from your computer every hour.

Easy-peasy things that are implement-able.

And, of course, a fitness tracker certainly helps. There are very few people, I suspect, who, on checking their watch or step counter, would stop at 9950 steps! We all like a sense of accomplishment right? And if it comes from meeting your fitness tracker’s goals, so be it :)

“It turns out that walking as few as 2,337 steps a day is enough to cut the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.

Pick it up to 3,967 steps and your risk of dying from any disease or complication might be reduced. For every additional 1,000 daily steps, there were benefits gained but even walking an extra 500 a day resulted in a 7 per cent reduction in dying from heart disease for some previously sedentary people.”

(The Times – don’t think I can share the link, since it’s behind a paywall)

I’ve pushed my personal goal to 15,000 steps a day, a target which I meet only 3/4 times a week, but it’s still there, as a big incentive and whenever I meet my target – yes, I’ll admit it, there is a quiet sense of satisfaction.

This graph illustrates the correlation between walking and improvements to one’s health

My own target of 15,000 steps, by the way, is all part of my focus on getting back to running marathons after the hiatus of lockdown & then having cancer. I have just signed up to run a marathon in Mumbai in January and, somewhat to my consternation, it will be 5 years since I last ran a marathon (and that from someone who has only been running for 10 years…)

Before that will be the Delhi half marathon, so my immediate focus right now is time on feet and getting my body used to longer distances again.

Earlier in this blog post, I had listed some of the factors that can influence one’s fitness journey, and one of them was weather – which might surprise those of you living in temperate climes.

But living as I do in New Delhi, right now the humidity is beyond awful.

It is draining and makes running challenging. So I’m sticking mainly to walking, at least until the weather improves, building up stamina and getting my body used to long distances again. Walking to run, in other words.

Happy walking!

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