The magic mantra of walking 10,000 steps a day is actually a marketing myth.
It was a marketing campaign in the 1960s in Japan that led to this popular belief that walking 10,000 steps a day is optimal for health and weight loss. But there is actually no scientific evidence backing this claim.
To much surprise, this popular mantra was a gold marketing strike to sell the step counter gadgets like smartwatches and pedometers. And did it work? The sales of Fitbit say it all. But is there a downside to walking 10,000 steps a day? Well, no!
Several studies and research have proven the health benefits of walking. Regular walking can improve mental, physical, and emotional health significantly. It is proven to reduce the risk of heart diseases, type 2 diabetes, and depression.
Counting the steps
So, how did they come up with the 10,000 steps formula?
The more the steps the more the benefits and 10,000 is a pretty good number that’s also easy to remember.
A normal person walks about 3,000 steps in a day around the house. Adding a 30 minutes brisk walk to their routine could add 3,000 to 4,000 more steps to it, which means 6,000 to 7,000 steps per day is easily attainable.
However, this number can be lower for people with chronic disorders and older people.
And for 10,000 steps one needs to walk for about 90 minutes every day at a moderate pace. While this might be feasible for some, it might not work out for everyone. Also, the pace of the walk matters a lot.
According to experts 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity in a week is good enough to leverage the benefits. This means walking 30 to 40 minutes every day. An Australian study found that people who walk more than 5,000 steps a day have a much lower risk of heart disease and stroke. Another study found that it can also significantly lower the risk of high blood pressure.
Benefits of Walking
Arthritis is the leading cause of disability today, and walking can help manage the symptoms. Walking improves blood circulation and joint mobility. It further increases strength, and endurance reduces joint pain, and helps combat fatigue.
But is it feasible for an arthritic patient to walk 10,000 steps a day? Probably not! But that does not mean that they shouldn’t walk at all. Even 30 minutes of a brisk walk could provide them with the same benefits.
Insomnia, disturbed sleep and other sleep problems are rising problems in the modern day. Research shows that walking can promote restful sleep. It helps in realigning circadian rhythms, combating stress hormones, and fighting anxiety and depression.
But is walking 10,000 steps a day necessary to get these benefits? No. It is not feasible for people in their old age suffering from sleep problems to walk 10,000 steps a day. Nor is it possible for adults stuck in busy routines. Studies have shown that 30 minutes of exercise regularly could yield the same results.
Walking improves breathing and helps release endorphins. It is an excellent mood booster that aids in combating cortisol and fights stress and depression. It also improves cognitive health, and memory and promotes restful sleep. A study quoted that long-distance walking could have a therapeutic effect on mental health. Another study found that walking in the middle of nature helps reduce cortisol levels.
However, there is no evidence citing that these benefits of walking could be achieved only if you walked 10,000 steps a day. Studies suggest that 30 to 40 minutes of walking in the morning could yield great results for mental health.
Studies show that walking at least 30 minutes a day can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by about 19 percent. This risk could further go down by increasing the duration and distance of the walk.
In addition to that, walking can also help lower blood sugar and manage blood pressure. A clinical study showed that a 15-minute walk 3 times a day showed improved blood sugar levels.
The benefits of exercise for weight management are well known and walking is a great exercise. However, it is not just exercise that could bring results in terms of weight loss. The mathematics of weight loss suggests that weight loss occurs because of a deficit of calories. That means calories burnt should be greater than calorie intake.
Thus, while walking can help you maintain a steady weight, a moderate pace of walking might not bring you impressive results. You might try a combination of walking in an elevation, running, weight training, cardio, and aerobics to get more effective results.
Research at Harvard University found that older women in their 70s could lower their risk of untimely death by walking an average of 4,400 steps. While a few other research quoted that the optimal benefit could be achieved by walking between 7,500 to 8,000 steps daily.
However, no research confirmed that 10,000 steps a day could lead to desired results. An American study found that for each 1,000-step increase a day the risk of diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke decrease by 10%. Another study quoted that for every 1,000 steps the risk of premature death was also reduced by 6%.
How to get started?
Walking has many amazing benefits. Here are some of the ways to get started on the right foot –
- Get the right shoes before you start your walking regime. It is very important to prevent foot sores and injuries.
- Walk in the morning to avoid the traffic and chaos. The calmness of the morning makes your walk more therapeutic.
- Start with smaller targets and gradually increase your pace and steps. You can start by walking 30 minutes a day at a moderate pace and then go on increasing the time and speed. Walking at the same speed and the same duration will not help in losing weight after a point.
- If you are running on a time crunch then you can split the 30 minutes and do 10 to 15 minutes walk after each meal. Make small changes like taking the stairs and walking while waiting. These little steps can add to the benefits.
- Consistency is very important. So, make sure to walk every day. You can listen to music to make your walk more interesting.
Walking is one of the best exercises that not only help you stay fit but also keeps your muscles toned. So, there is no doubt that you must walk every day, even if it’s not 10,000 steps, you do not need to get disheartened. Whether it’s 3,000, 5,000, 7,000, or 10,000, make sure you walk every day.