Can 10,000 Steps Really Change Your Health?

Senior couple using sports technologies in the park - daily steps

There is no debate that walking and movement is good for us and increasing our physical activity can come with many benefits, but achieving a certain number of steps a day can feel out of reach and downright discouraging in our busy lives. To add to that, what if you’re at a desk all day or you live somewhere that doesn’t have trails or sidewalks? Good news. Achieving more steps in your day doesn’t have to be so challenging.


Let’s take a look at what experts say about setting step goals and how we can find ways to use walking to change the overall landscape of our health.


Do you really need 10,000 steps a day?

Somewhere along the way you have probably heard that reaching 10,000 steps a day is the magic number in fitness. For perspective, walking 10,000 steps is equal to approximately 5 miles a day. If you already have an active lifestyle, this may feel like an achievable number but for most people walking 5 miles a day is not super realistic.


This number has been around for decades, so who decided that 10,000 was the benchmark for success?
According to a 2019 study by the American Medical Association, the origin of the goal of 10,000 steps per day is not clear. Most likely, it was born as a part of a marketing strategy out of Japan. A trade name of a pedometer sold in 1965 by Yamasa Clock and Instrument Company in Japan called Manpo-kei, which translates to “10 000 steps meter” in Japanese.


While there is no scientific data to back up this clever marketing strategy, having a goal of 10,000 steps is still a solid goal to work towards. But it’s not a one-size-fits-all strategy. Your health benefits every time you move more.


Setting up an Achievable Step Plan

man walking tracking number of steps and heart rate


The best way to get started on your step journey is to determine a reasonable goal for yourself. To set an appropriate goal, you first need to have a baseline of your current movement level. You can do this by using a tracker (pedometer, smartphone app, etc..) Click here for a breakdown of recommended products.


If you currently don’t have a daily step goal, take a few days to track your steps. Don’t do anything different. This will help you get a true baseline of how much you currently move without trying to do anything extra. At the end of the week, do some quick math to find your average daily number of steps. Add 500 to that average and that is your step goal. After another week, try increasing your goal by another 500 steps and keep that going.


If you currently have a daily goal that you never miss, then you can bump that up. Start by adding 500 steps to your goal. But if that isn’t challenging enough, then bump up adding 1,000 steps every day. Be careful not to make it too difficult.



Tips for Sneaking in More Steps

Business partners walking down the stairs in office building and talking. Diverse business people discussing work while walking downstairs in office.A misconception about having a step goal is that you have to be able to squeeze in multiple long walks every day. This could not be further from the truth. After all, we are walking all of the time so daily life presents many opportunities to increase our steps.


Dr. Lee found from her step study that “People who aren’t active may find it difficult to know exactly how long they’ve been moving. Quantifying exercise by counting steps can feel more doable and less overwhelming.” She offers some fantastic tips to increase steps throughout your day.


two men taking the stairs to get in more daily steps


Tips for increasing your steps:

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Park at the first empty space you see, not the one closest to the entrance.
  • Get off the bus one stop earlier than your destination.
  • At home, break up chores. Make more than one trip to bring the dinner dishes into the kitchen or the groceries in from your car.


Dr. Lee also adds that “those little things collectively add up. Don’t be intimidated or dissuaded by the 10,000 number.” Be mindful of your daily movement and always be on the lookout for ways to add extra walking.



Why You Should Up Your Step Count

senior Mexican woman walking 10000 steps

Walking provides so many tremendous health benefits. Walking can positively impact your quality of life and help decrease anxiety and depression, which was concluded by a study of 63 overweight/obese patients. Research involving 115 women in South Africa suggests that walking can improve blood pressure, waist circumference, and BMI. Additionally, walking as a regular activity can reduce incidences of heart disease.


If these aren’t reasons enough to convince you to get moving, Lee’s study also found that walking is associated with a decreased mortality rate. In her study, Lee looked at 16,741 old women and found that those who took 4,400 steps a day over the course of a week had a 41% lower risk of dying than those who took 2,700 steps a day during the same time period. In other words, every step counts.



Final Thoughts on Aiming for 10,000 Steps

There are a multitude of reasons to consider upping your step count and simple ways you make it more achievable throughout your day. Learn to lean on your fitness tracker to guide you on your journey. Using a step tracker will help you remain accountable to the amount of physical activity you are striving to incorporate throughout your day. Or, you can enlist a friend or an accountability partner to do it with you!


Your goal can simply be an incentive to help you get at least 30-minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise every day, as well as help you reduce long periods of sitting which helps your overall spine health and posture. Whether your goal is weight loss or just to move more, remember that every step counts.



Need help figuring out the next steps in your health journey?

Talk to your AlignLife Chiropractor about your spine health, nutrition, activity level, and more.




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