You don’t have to hit the running track at full throttle to stay healthy. Walking is a great way to stay active at low impact, which is great for people who are pregnant, injured or generally unable to handle exercises with too much strain.
In recent years, there has been a push to walk at least 10,000 steps a day, but is this number really necessary? Let’s explore several reasons for walking so much, whether our age factors into it, and whether it makes sense for certain health goals, such as weight loss and improving general strength.
Why Walk 10,000 Steps a Day?
The idea of walking 10,000 steps a day originated in Japan in the 1960s. A company called Yamasa Tokei Keiki produced a pedometer named "Manpo-kei," which translates to "10,000 steps meter." The company claimed that walking 10,000 steps a day would lead to improved health and fitness.
Research shows that walking can provide numerous benefits, including improved cardiovascular health and reduced risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. It’s also a suitable exercise for people of all ages and fitness levels.
However, the question remains: do we really need to walk 10,000 steps a day to reap these benefits?
Getting More Steps in With Age
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, which can be achieved through walking, especially for the elderly. The CDC also recommends breaking up this activity into at least 10-minute increments throughout the day.
For older adults, the CDC recommends incorporating balance and strength training exercises in addition to aerobic activity. This can help reduce the risk of falls and maintain muscle mass.
Interestingly, we can see this in action as a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that among their 4,840 adult participants, a higher number of steps per day was associated with lower mortality rates. However, a different study on a demographic of older women also found that walking more than 7,500 steps per day did not result in additional health benefits.
Possible Step Goals for Specific Health Goals
While 10,000 steps a day is a common goal, it may not be realistic or necessary for everyone. It would be easier for a young adult who commutes on foot, taking public transport to work every day, so it’s also important to account for our unique circumstances. The important thing is to find a step goal that is challenging yet achievable.
Weight loss: A goal of 8,000 to 10,000 steps per day may be appropriate, as you’ll need more output to achieve the caloric deficit needed for weight loss. That said, it’s also important to remember that weight loss is also influenced by factors such as diet and sleep.
General health: You could aim for about 7,500 steps per day to reap the general benefits of walking. This can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases and improve overall fitness.
Physical strength: Incorporating strength training exercises in addition to walking may be more effective than simply increasing step count to a set number. Instead, you can potentially work walking into your workout routine such as warm up and cool down sets.
Walking Your Unique Walk
In the end, there might not be a clear cut walking goal for everyone, but that’s okay, because everyone has unique fitness and even dietary needs. If that’s still too vague for you, you can always try to find the type of optimal training for your body’s needs with a genetic test, such as CircleDNA’s range of kits. Removing the need for guesswork, there are tons of fitness and health recommendations based on your very genetic blueprint, so you can count on your DNA reports being a helpful guide to your specific health goals.