How many steps should you get a day? If your answer was 10,000, then you are not alone. Most people believe that we are required to get 10,000 steps per day to improve our health. However, some recent attention has challenged this traditional step goal. To be honest, I find it odd that I ever have to defend walking, but I digress. Let's clarify if 10,000 steps is actually debunked.
Is 10,000 Steps Debunked?
No, not at all. Actually, because people know about it, setting goals of 10,000 steps per day might encourage people to get more steps per day, versus setting another step goal. If you like walking, it provides a great goal to achieve, and is reasonable for healthy adults to achieve.
In addition, getting 10,000 steps per day is related to a number of health benefits, many of which we recently discussed with mall walking.
However, 10,000 steps can be a bit daunting for some, and should be a goal to reach, not something you must get from day 1.
If we look at the most recent research, the consensus is that we do not actually have to get 10,000 steps per day for our health. This research was a catalyst for the proposed controversy surrounding the 10,000 step goal, which was fueled by its presumed origins.
Dr. Catrine Tudor-Locke, a leading expert in this area, has shared that the 10,000 steps is most likely a good-sounding name for marketing purposes, which originated around the Tokyo Olympics of 1964. Lifestyles, especially with Americans, have changed quite a bit since then - but the step goal has stayed the same. So, do we have to get 20,000 steps now, just to make up for our unhealthy lifestyles?
7,500 Steps, and Our New Step Goals
A group of recent reviews explored the research for us, and came up with guidelines for adults, children and adolescents, older adults, and special populations.2-4 These reviews are open access for everyone to read!
I have summarized the prescription for adults:5
Avoid taking less than 5,000 steps everyday, and limit prologned sitting bouts.
BE ACTIVE, WALK MORE:
Take 7,500 or more steps per day.
Try to get 3,000 per day at 100 steps per minute, at least 5 days per week. 100 steps per minute is a reasonable estimate of "moderate intensity" physical activity.
- An easy way to do this, is to walk to music that is 100 beats per minute (bpm), such as 'Staying Alive' by the Bee Gees or 'I Want it that Way' by the Backstreet Boys. Here is a great database to find songs.
- TRY THIS! Make a playlist of 30-minutes worth of your favorite songs that are 100 bpm, and walk to the entire playlist.
So, it is not that getting 10,000 steps per day is bad or debunked, but the recommendation is a bit dated. The new recommendations give us a clearer picture, and more specific recommendations for using walking to improve our health. I will leave you with a few walking key points. Walking Rulz!
Walking Key Points
- Walking is already the most common, freely chosen physical activity by most people.
- Walking is cheap, even FREE, unless you have to buy a good pair of walking shoes (which I recommend).
- Walking at 2.5 mph is considered a 'moderate intensity' physical activity. Our goal is accumulate 150+ minutes per week.
- Walking can be easily monitored, such as with a pedometer. I suggest the Yamax Digiwalker SW-200, or for the Bluetooth generation, the FitBit Zip or One. Even iPhone 5+ apps, such as Moves and Health Mate, appear to do pretty well for steps.1
- Case, M. A., Burwick, H. A., Volpp, K. G., & Patel, M. S. (2015). Accuracy of Smartphone Applications and Wearable Devices for Tracking Physical Activity Data. JAMA, 313(6), 625-626.
- Tudor-Locke, C., Craig, C. L., Beets, M. W. ... & Blair, S. N. (2011). How many steps/day are enough? For children and adolescents. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act, 8:78.
- Tudor-Locke, C., Craig, C. L., Brown, W. J. ... & Blair, S. N. (2011). How many steps/day are enough? For adults. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act, 8: 80.
- Tudor-Locke, C., Craig, C. L., Aoyagi, Y., Bell, R. C., Croteau, K. A., De Bourdeaudhuij, I., ... & Blair, S. N. (2011). How many steps/day are enough? For older adults and special populations. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act, 8:80.
- Tudor-Locke, C., & Schuna Jr, J. M. (2012). Steps to preventing type 2 diabetes: exercise, walk more, or sit less?. Frontiers in Endocrinology, 3:142.