The number 10,000 can be intimidating no matter what it is about. When it comes to amounts of exercise activities, 10,000 might sound a little overkill! Have you ever heard someone recommend that you walk 10,000 steps a day? You ask yourself, do you really need to walk 10,000 steps daily? Really?
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 10,000 steps a day is the recommended amount of movement for most adults to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Walking 10,000 steps daily can lower blood sugar, improve heart and mental health, and support muscular strength.
In this article, we’ll cover the history of the 10,000-step recommendation, the many benefits derived from following it, and the way to determine how many steps are right for your lifestyle and health!
History of Where 10,000 Steps Came From
The phrase “10,000 steps a day” is so often repeated in the general fitness culture, even making its way into our fitness tracking apps, that it can be common not to question where the phrase originated from.
However, if we trust the health benefits and reasons behind walking for at least 10,000 steps, we’ll benefit from knowing where the recommendation initially came from!
According to Harvard Health, the reason 10,000 steps was originally thought of was that a company in Japan invented a step-counting device in 1964 and needed a catchy marketing slogan.
This company was called the Yamasa Corporation, and their device capitalized on the general public’s excitement during the build-up for the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. The phrase “10,000 steps,” or “Manpo-Kei” in Japanese, became a phrase of encouragement and a slogan for those who wanted to embrace the exercise challenge.
While it spawned many clubs of people dedicated to walking at least the marketed 10,000 steps each day, Manpo-Kei was not necessarily created with a scientific health benefit in mind.
This can seem like a reason to shrug off the suggestion that 10,000 steps are the correct minimum for healthy adults. However, since the creation of this slogan, modern establishments like the CDC have confirmed that it has turned out to be a real benefit to healthy living!
Related: Is Walking Better Than Running?
Health Benefits of Walking 10,000 Steps a Day
Now that we know how the figure of ten thousand steps got its less-than-health-conscious start, we can discuss the real health benefits of actually doing it! These benefits are listed below:
- Lower Mortality Rate – According to a study don’t by epidemiologist Dr. I-Min Lee, the mortality of the elderly women who walked at least 4,400 steps a day benefited from a 41% drop in mortality! This drop-off continued until a subject walked as many as 7,500 steps in a day, meaning that walking more leads to a longer life!
- Elevated Brain Function – All of your organs contribute in some fashion to walking, but did you know that your brain is also working hard and enjoying the exercise? Because the heart is getting better at moving oxygenated blood through the body, the brain is getting increased blood flow, leading to better understanding and memory functions!
- Weight Maintenance – According to Edward-Elmhurst Health, the average person can burn as many as 500 calories during a simple 10,000-step walk! In addition to toning muscles during this exercise, the body gets more and more practiced at turning those calories into energy and even burning a little fat, keeping your weight constant.
- Stronger Heart – Any exercise will help your heart get used to higher amounts of blood moving through the organ and energizing the rest of your body. Walking over 10,000 steps a day will whip your heart into shape and allow it to move blood through your lymphatic system cleanly and efficiently!
- Muscle Building – Many muscles are used in the simple act of walking, even if you’re going at a moderate pace! These include the hip adductors, the hamstrings, the calves, and the quadriceps. The less-obvious but still important muscles that can benefit from walking include the glutes and abdomen.
- Balance Improvement – Abdominal muscles play a vital role in keeping your body balanced and upright. While training yourself to travel for thousands of steps a day, you’re also training those muscles to keep you level, which can be a great advantage in later life!
- Mood Improvement – As wonderful as the improvements to physical health are, don’t forget how important mental and emotional health is. Walking for 10,000 steps releases endorphins and reduces the stress hormones in the brain. Also, remember that exercise causes tiredness, which leads to better sleep, which is great for the mood!
How to Walk 10,000 Steps A Day
Now that you know what good can come from walking thousands of steps, the question is, how? After all, the number can still seem intimidatingly large, and not everyone is used to taking time out of the day for a long stroll. Not to worry! Below is a list of ways to get some extra steps in during your daily life:
- Don’t park near the entrance – Whether going to the grocery store, the bank, the mall, or even a sporting event, try to get out of the habit of finding a parking spot close to the door. A few extra steps in the parking lot to and from your vehicle can make a big difference in your daily step count!
- Don’t avoid the stairs – Many people naturally go for an elevator if they have a meeting or are checking into a hotel room on higher floors. Instead, try taking the stairs more often. This adds to the number of steps you achieve daily and is also great for strengthening glute muscles and thighs!
- Make more trips – This tip can apply to carrying in shopping bags, walking your pet, fetching supplies for an errand, or any kind of chore you can do around the house! Instead of maximizing the number of things you can carry from one location to another, try taking more trips while remembering that every step counts!
- Walk to daily activities – Hoping to meet a friend for a coffee date? Consider asking them to go for a walk while you chat! Taking the bus or a cab to work? See if they’ll let you out of the vehicle one stop early or walk if possible!
There are many ways to incorporate more steps into your day, but remember, starting slow is okay. Listen to what your body tells you and take it easier if you begin developing aches or pains.
What Are The CDC’s Exercise Recommendations For Adults and Adolescents?
According to the CDC’s page on the subject, which can be found here, adolescents should have at least one hour of physical activity at a moderate or vigorous level of intensity each day! On the other hand, adults up to 64 years of age should do around 150 minutes each week of moderately-intense activity.
Moderately intense activity can be something as mild as a brisk walk. It is an activity that does strengthen muscles, but gradually and gently. The CDC recommends that adults walk for almost two hours each day.
For adolescents, this definition of moderate activity applies, but vigorous activity is more specifically defined as activities that get the heart pumping, like running and climbing. Luckily, most children get in their recommended hour of exercise simply by playing, doing things like jumping rope, and competing in a sport.
Should You Walk More Than 10,000 Steps a Day?
According to the CDC, the healthiest number of steps to walk is simply as much as you can. If your body begins aching or hurting after 2,000 steps, that’s a good sign that you should rest. However, for able-bodied adults, walking more than 10,000 steps a day can only benefit your health.
Can You Lose Weight By Walking 10,000 Steps A Day?
You can lose weight by walking 10,000 steps a day, but a few other factors need to be considered for it to work. The most important of these factors to consider is your caloric intake.
Your body turns extra calories (those not burned in the regular activities of the day) into body fat. Three thousand five hundred calories usually equal about one pound of body fat.
Although some people can burn through this much by walking for 10,000 steps, the only sure way to lose weight is to calculate how many calories you usually burn on a walk and eat fewer extra calories.
According to Medical News Today, a female usually needs as many as 2,400 calories for daily activities, while a male needs as many as 3,000. Therefore, if you want to lose weight, plan on not eating much more than your body needs throughout the day, and your 10,000-step walk will result in losing weight!
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In summary, the recommendation “10,000 steps a day” began as propaganda for a step-counting device in the 60s but can still be an admirable goal today. Although walking exactly 10,000 steps isn’t strictly necessary, the CDC claims it can benefit one’s heart, muscles, and lifespan if put into practice.