If you wear a fitness tracker, chances are you aim to take 10,000 steps a day., but where does this magic number come from and is it right for you?
The 10,000-step target originates from the run-up to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, when a Japanese marketing campaign used it to advertise pedometers. Today, fitness experts say that while walking 10,000 steps each day is a reasonable goal for healthy adults to aim for, it’s not likely to be suitable for everyone.
Walking for health
The first thing to decide when setting a personal target is: exactly what are you hoping to achieve? If you have specific weight loss or body conditioning goals, you might need to adapt your diet or do particular exercises. If you’re making big changes, it could be worth seeking medical advice and/or working with a fitness instructor to develop a structured training programme.
If your goal is to improve your overall health, becoming generally more physically active should perhaps be your priority. Regular exercise is known to reduce your risk of heart disease , stroke and diabetes, and help your mental health too. Although walking is just one of many ways to get active, it might be the best for maintaining healthy bones. A recent study of 62-year-old men and women found that those who walked 10,000 steps a day had better bone health than those who walked less.
How many steps?
If you think you could do with improving some aspect of your health or would just benefit more generally from developing healthier habits, walking could be for you. It’s currently recommended that healthy adults do around half an hour of ‘moderate intensity’ physical activity each day. You can achieve this by walking an extra 3,000-4,000 steps a day, at a moderate pace.
A useful target if you are looking to increase their levels of physical activity is to walk about 3.000-4,000 more steps each day than you would normally do. If that takes you to around 10,000 steps, that’s fine. But it’s probably best not to get stuck on the 10,000-step ideal. We are all individuals. The key is finding what works for you.
Ready to get walking? All you need is a pair of decent shoes and a place to walk. If you fancy some company, take friends or family along, or join a walking group. Alternatively, lots of people enjoy walking with a dog. Even if you don’t have one, you can volunteer to walk a dog at a shelter or for a housebound pet owner.
There is a UK guide available, to walks you can do with a pram or buggy, and also one to trails suitable for wheelchair users. Whatever your goal and whichever target you set, walking can be enjoyable and make you healthier. Take a look at the NHS walking for health guidelines for more information. Now, get your walking shoes on and get out there!