Why Is 10k Steps The Goal?

It’s quite common these days for people to have a daily walking target of 10,000 steps. But where did this figure come from? Is it enough or is it too little? I did some research on this topic and the answers might surprise you.

Where did the 10k target come from?

Believe it or not, it actually came from a marketing campaign. In Japan, just before the 1964 Olympics, a company developed a device which counts people's steps. 

It was called a Manpo-Kei. In Japanese, "man" means 10,000, "po" means steps and "kei" means meter. So it was, literally, a 10,000 steps meter.

The device was essentially a pedometer, based on the work of Dr Yoshiro Hatano, a young academic at Kyushu University of Health and Welfare. Dr Hatano was concerned that people living in Japan were developing a lazy “American” lifestyle so he wanted a way to get them moving more. His thought was that if he could get people to increase their daily steps from 4,000 to 10,000 then they would burn off around 500 extra calories a day and remain healthy and fit.

And that, ladies and gentleman. is how the "10,000 steps a day" target was born.

So should we still aim for 10,000 steps a day?

Yes! Based on the evidence, many physical activity guidelines throughout the world, including Australia's guidelines, recommend a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week. This is roughly 30 minutes on most days. Half an hour of activity (moderate intensity) is about 3,000 to 4,000 steps.

In Australia, the average adult accumulates about 7,400 steps a day. So an additional 3,000 to 4,000 steps through dedicated walking will get you to the 10,000 steps

What are the benefits of 10k steps a day?

Here is a list of some benefits of getting 10k steps a day:

  • It helps with weight loss! The more calories you burn, the easier it will be to get into a calories deficit which means the easier it is to lose the kilos.
  • It will boost your heart health. Regular physical activity helps increase the amount of oxygenated blood being sent to your muscles so the fitter you are, the easier this happens, the harder you will be able to work out which means the more calories you can burn.
  • It will strengthen your lungs. As the rate and volume of oxygen you inhale goes up, so does your body’s ability to use it efficiently (a measurement referred to as your "VO2 max").
  • It improves your concentration by releasing feel-good hormones (like endorphins) and also increases blood flow to the brain, which results in improved cognitive function. You will also feel less stressed and anxious and, and it will improve your creativity, productivity, and concentration.
  • It strengthens your bones. Physical activity (especially weight-bearing exercises) places extra stress on your bones, which helps improve the density of your bones and lowers your risk of osteoporosis later in life. Walking, and better yet running, are great ways to do this.

Tips for increasing your daily steps

  • Take the stairs instead of the lift or escalator. If you have no choice but to take the escalator: instead of standing there, start walking.
  • Take a moving break. During your lunch break, go on a 15-minute walk around the block. Not only will you get your steps in, but you may feel more focused at work. And remember to get up frequently during the day, not just at lunch.
  • Park far away. Every couple hundred steps of walking to or from your car adds up quickly. Plus, if you park at the back of the parking lot, you’ll help save your car from dings and dents.
  • Take a post-meal walk. This also helps with digestion.
  • Get off the bus or train one (or two) stops early and walk the rest of the way.
  • Take extra trips. When unloading grocery bags from the car or carrying laundry to the bedroom, it’s tempting to try to take as few trips as possible. Instead, try taking one more trip than you absolutely have to.
  • Don’t fast forward through the ads. The next time you binge-watch your favourite show on TV, don’t fast-forward through the commercials or watch something one another channel. Stand up and march in place or pick stuff up around the house.

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