10,000 steps a day is supposed to be the required amount of walking required per day to keep healthy and fit while no other exercise is required. The program was first mentioned about 40 years ago in Japan and supposedly was not based on any research, but just a number they came up with. Now it’s being promoted by many health professionals as a way to combat obesity, improve weight loss and heart health.
There is no question that walking is good for you and my earlier research showed that walking can be more beneficial than running. The idea was that our ancestor’s bodies developed a method of efficiency to use stored fuel (fat) before it used glycogen (quick fuel). It takes a long time to evolve, so there’s no reason to think that anything has changed over the past thousands of years.
My sister told me about the 10000 steps a day program just the other day. She’s a doctor working with immigration Canada and works overseas. She’s been in Vienna Austria for the past 4 years and just got a new position in Singapore. She was in Canada for a few business meetings and flew into Edmonton yesterday to visit while making her way back east and then on to Vienna.
I began my walking program at 375 pounds and walked 20 minutes a day or twice a day. I incorporated ankle weights, starting with 1 pound and then worked up to 2.5 pounds on each ankle and even started using 5 pound dumbbells as I walked my route. I walked rain or shine and one day I came back from my route during a -40 degree Celsius (-40 Fahrenheit) and my neighbor said “nothing stops you from your walk, does it?”
However you approach it, walking has many advantages.
- It’s low impact
- It can be done anywhere at any time
- Requires no special equipment
- Lowers Blood Pressure
- Increases HDL or Good Cholesterol
- Regular Walking or other physical activity lowers the need for gallstone surgery. A Harvard study of 60,000 women aged 45 to 60 found that the risk of needing gallstone surgery was decreased by 20 to 31%
- Can prevent depression, colon cancer, constipation, osteoporosis and impotence.
- Lowers stress levels
- Improves Sleep
- Strengthens muscles bones and joints
- And on and on and on….
I once began to think of what a person could do for free, and walking was one of the only things I could come up with. Sure, challenge me on this if you like, as I couldn’t come up with any others. If you think you know a free activity, leave a comment.
Tracking your steps with this program requires a pedometer or stepometer as they’re sometimes called. These can be purchased online or from a fitness store. They come in various versions from the most basic to the ultra feature filled versions. The simple versions track your steps and give you a readout while the advanced ones will allow you to track your progress over time, compile a database, download the data to your computer and create charts and graphs etc. The best thing to do is get the simplest version and then upgrade as you decide what features you want.
How Do Pedometers Work?
Most pedometers have a tiny spring-set arm that moves up and down as you walk and measures the vertical movement of your hips. Electronic pedometers, however, can detect the impact of your foot hitting the ground.
A pedometer is a motion-sensitive electrical circuit that switches on and off, activating a digital counter. It tends to function best during vigorous walking, when the motion of the hips is more pronounced. Some can even learn how you walk and become more efficient recognizing your specific patterns.
10,000 steps is about 5 miles and can take about one hour but this all depends on your step distance. If you were to get out and go for a walk, you could have it done in an hour, but most people simply start their day and see where they end up naturally. It would be interesting to see how active you are simply proceeding with your day.
To begin, follow these steps
Week 1: wear your pedometer each and every day from the moment you get out of bed to the time you go to bed and track how many steps you’re taking each day. Do this for a week to get a baseline for your physical activity. I would attach the pedometer to myself using something a little more secure so it doesn’t fall down the toilet. I learned this with a cordless phone. A friend I was working with dropped a cordless phone down an outhouse while we were working at Warrior Camp last summer. Wasn’t fun retrieving the phone. We retrieved it because we didn’t want to plug the pumps, not because we wanted the phone back.
Week 2: your goal this week is to increase your steps by about 20%. Add the total amount of your steps in week one and divide by 7 which gives you your daily average. Then multiply that number by 1.2. What you get is the number of additional steps to shoot for per day. Remember to continue to log your steps each day into some sort of spreadsheet or exercise log.
Many experts recommend 12,000 to 15,000 steps for weight loss results in obese people using the program, but I’d have to say that adding some sort of additional variables would help as well. What I’d recommend is the ankle weights or even walking uphill. I’ve read enough info about hill walking or hill running to understand it’s benefits. I did this during many a fitness boot camp and on my own. Hill walking and hill running can be low impact depending on how you do it. It’s low impact because you’re running uphill so the angle is shorter and you’re full weight isn’t crashing down on your foot.
Walking is a great way to create a positive new habit. I recommend creating new habits rather than trying to break old ones. I feel that if you can keep adding in new habits, the old ones simply have no more room or just fall away and are replaced. Ie: if you’re trying to break the habit of drinking soft drinks, just replace it with going for a walk around the block and then finishing up with a glass of water. If you’re craving something unhealthy, go for a walk. Your body will switch to fat burning mode, metabolism will increase as will brain functioning from the oxygen and the craving should go away or at least take your mind somewhere else for the time being. Doing so, you also add more to your daily goal of 10,000 steps a day.
For those that need to increase their steps per day and are just starting, here are some tips that my sister left me with from her experience and then some more that I’ve come up with.
My sister uses the transit in Vienna as her office is in the heart of the city. She walks to the transit terminal near her home which takes her down town. She would then get on a tram that circles around to her office. She changed that last part and began to walk it. The last tram takes 10 minutes which includes the stops etc while walking it takes 12 minutes and earns her 1000 steps I believe it was.
You can start by making modifications in what you’re already doing.
- Park at the far end of the parking lot instead of “as close to the door as possible”
- When dropping off the kids at school, park a few blocks away and walk it with them. This introduces physical fitness into their lifestyles every morning as well
- Use the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator
- When you’re on your break, get out and go for a walk around the block
- Vary your walking route to provide variety
- Choose walking routes that include hills
- Read more tips in the 10000 steps a day walking forum
Using an MP3 player to listen to your favorite music helps too. Even better is using the time to listen to motivational audios that you have. While you’re walking, why not listen to success stories of other people, or listen to weight loss guru’s who you can relate to and inspire you to do more. These are Role Models for success. There are a lot to choose from including one I was featured on, unstoppable fat loss. Unstoppable fat loss is an interview series of audios with fat loss and fitness professionals including Tom Venuto, Jon Benson, Dr Joe Vitale from the Secret, Donna Krech, Clarke Bartram and myself. There are 21 motivational and inspirational audios in total including two from handicapped individuals that let nothing stop them in their success. Read more about Unstoppable Fat Loss.
I use my MP3 player for educational purposes more than fun or pleasure. I’d rather learn about things with my time rather than listening to music, but that’s just me. Right now I’m listening to the Unstoppable fat loss series and on my “next up” list is Master NLP practitioner Chris Howard on Neuro Linguistic Programming.
The hardest part of beginning the program is staying motivated. Here are some tips for motivation:
- The hardest part of any physical fitness program is the fist four to six weeks. Plan on maintaining your walking program for at least a month to give yourself a fair chance.
- Challenge others and become accountable for your progress
- Meet others doing the same 10,000 steps a day program in my 10000 steps a day forum challenge section where you can get tips, challenge others and log your progress.
- Get a dog. Dogs will walk you while you’d have to drag a cat. Hmmm.. added resistance?
- Use a daily positive walking affirmation such as “every day I’m walking more and more steps” or “walking makes me look great and feel great”
- Use your walking time to visualize your goals, not to think about problems. Think, Create and Believe.
- Focus on Deep Breathing to the bottom of your lungs. Use the time to fill your body with live giving oxygen. It’s in the presence of oxygen that fat is burned.
- Reward yourself for each month you’ve committed to walking daily. Buy some new clothes as you drop the pounds, buy a new motivational audio program for your MP3 player, or other reward.
- Find more motivational tips from members of the 10000 steps a day forum
The benefits of walking are endless. Lose weight, improve your health and just simply feel better. Anyone can do it and it’s free. Don’t let another day go by without taking action.