You see and hear it everywhere. Walking 10,000 steps each day appears as a goal on fitness apps, is recommended by trainers, and is boasted about by our friends. But, what is the real reason behind walking 10,000 steps?
It turns out that the number 10,000 may be more historically and arbitrarily based than you think. Yes, it is true that walking is a good form of physical activity that can benefit your health. However, each person is unique and their step goals should be adjusted to their personal requirements.
10,000 steps is not a bad place to start, but let’s work on creating a step goal that best fits your needs!
Why won’t 10,000 Steps Work For Everyone?
There are a few specific reasons behind the recommendation to customize step goals, so we are going to start with the most impactful reasons.
1. Weight Loss Results Vary for 10,000 Steps
If you are looking to complete your steps in the name of weight loss then it is good to know that the activity of walking 10,000 steps a day is considered to burn 3,500 calories a week. That is great, but it is based on a specific body type.
It is commonly considered that each mile walked burns about 100 calories and 10,000 steps are estimated to be 5 miles. This math would result in 500 calories burned a day and when that is multiplied by the number of days in a week it becomes apparent that every week should add up to 3,500 calories.
The problem here lies in the fact that this estimate is based on a 180-pound individual, and we are not all 180 pounds.
If you weigh less than 180-pounds more steps will be required to reach 3,500 calories and if you weigh over 180-pounds, fewer steps are required for the same goal. Even more importantly, not everyone needs to burn exactly 3,500 calories each week to accomplish weight loss.
Walking is a healthy activity, but it is not a one size fit’s all experience in relation to weight loss. If this is the reason you are considering 10,000 steps a day, it is very helpful to do the math first to estimate how many steps will best benefit your weight loss goal.
Tip: There are online walking calorie calculators that will help you determine how many calories you are burning on each walk. Best of all, they are customizable to your age, weight, height, walking speed, and BMI to ensure a more accurate estimate of calories burned.
Combined with a goal amount of calories to be burned and a balanced diet, this is the best way to turn counting steps into healthy weight loss. (Ex: https://keisan.casio.com/exec/system/1350891527 )
2. 10,000 Step Ability Varies
The truth is, not everyone is comfortable with or capable of walking 10,000 steps every single day. Even if you are capable of this level of exercise, there are bound to be times where physical conditions may mean it is best for you to decrease the amount you walk or times when you need to take a break.
When you walk 10,000 steps, it should be a comfortable experience, and it doesn’t have to be done all at once. I have noticed that it is easiest to break up walks into multiple events. This is a great way to prevent overworking your feet or legs at any one time.
There is no shame in feeling uncomfortable or painful while attempting to walk 10,000 steps every day. With the help of a pedometer or fitness app, you can walk and determine what amount of steps is enough to keep you active, without causing any major discomfort. If you continue to walk regularly your step count may gradually increase with your fitness!
For individuals who are more than comfortable walking 10,000 steps a day, there is also the option of increasing your step count, or the pace at which you walk. The goal is to find a comfortable balance when it comes to step counting.
I feel that any number of steps that keep you active, gently push your stamina, and make you feel healthy is a wonderful step count to aim for.
Tip: Be sure to get good shoes for walking regardless of how many steps you are aiming for. A good shoe will help you get the most out of your walks and it should protect you from conditions caused by excessive pressure and improper support. If you ever experience pain that cannot be solved through a change in shoes always consult a doctor.
3. Does 10,000 Steps Fit Your Lifestyle?
Completing 10,000 steps a day is considered equivalent to 5 miles, so it can take anywhere from an hour to most of the day. This all depends on your pace and the way you break up your steps.
If you work a job where you are constantly moving around it will be easiest to meet your step goal, but more commonly the time we spend working is sedentary. If that is the case for you, then all 10,000 of your steps must be completed around your work schedule.
The environment you live in, a variety of responsibilities, and the time of day you have available for walking all weigh in on how reasonable it is for you to be completing 10,000 steps a day. In instances where the time it takes you to complete 10,000 steps interrupts other important activities, it may be best to supplement this with some other forms of exercise.
The CDC recommends at least two and a half hours of activity for adults daily, so as long as you are moving your body and staying active in some form it doesn’t matter how many steps you take.
Tip: If want to work any number of steps into your average day it can be helpful to walk 10 to 15 minutes for every hour of work you complete or every hour you spend sitting. This integrated method will keep you active throughout the day and all those short walks add up to more steps than you may expect!
Sure, 10,000 is a wonderful number of steps to accomplish each day, but it is not mandatory. Instead of focusing on the number of steps everyone else talks about, you can focus on the number of steps that best fit you. The real question should be “How many steps do I need to stay healthy and reach my personal goals?” and the answer doesn’t have to be 10,000.
How to Get Started
If you are going to walk about 10,000 steps each day, you will need to be aware of your walking habits. One way to kick-start the habit of walking 10,000 steps is to walk around the block once or twice. Make it a daily habit and you may be surprised how much more aware you are of your walking habits.
When I started to run more regularly, I started out slowly and worked my way up to running 3 times a week. I made the decision that no matter what my schedule was like I would go running at least once a week.
That was a good decision for me because I started to develop a habit of going running about twice a week, every week. I wasn’t striving for increasing how long I ran or how many calories I was burning; it was about developing the exercise attitude and habit that would allow me to continue to put in the time to run each week.
Once I started the habit and made myself feel comfortable going running each week, it was easier to set goals to run longer and to run more often.
Tip: Try to get up earlier in the morning to exercise and cut down on TV time in the evening so you can get to be earlier. I know this is easier to say than to do. I suggest trying it once or twice a week and see how things go. After it becomes a habit, it won’t seem so hard has been my experience.
If you find yourself struggling to keep your goals or develop a walking habit, enlist a friend or family member to help you with your walking goals. I find that just talking about my goals with others to be helpful too.
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