We’ve all heard that we should be walking at least 10,000 steps per day, but how and why is this figure agreed upon? Is it an arbitrary figure based on assumption, or is there actual science backing up the claim? Furthermore, what are the benefits of walking? Why should we be doing it?
Read on to find out…
Over the years walking has had an image shift. At first, it was merely transport. You walked because you had to – there was little other choice. After the bike was made available to the mass market, it was less of a requirement. When the car was invented, it fell out of fashion almost completely because motorised travel was available to all.
Walking benefitted from a resurgence thanks to tourism – guided walks, hiking maps, walking tours etc brought walking to the fore again. It had an image change – walking was no longer transport, it was exercise. It was activity. It was something you did for fun!
National parks opened up, public footpaths became commonplace and a world where walking was both encouraged and catered for was born. Walking was different, but it was back!
BUT WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE US NOW?
According to a YouGov poll, 52% of UK adults walk only 2,000 steps per day, with a further 17% walking less than 500 steps per day. Basically, we’re walking less and less. With a daily suggestion of walking 10,000 steps per day, it’s little wonder that the UK has a growing obesity problem.
We’re simply not active enough and it’s becoming a bigger and bigger problem. Walking is a great way to solve this inactivity issue, given it costs no money, there’s no skill to learn and it can be done literally anywhere. There’s no need to invest in expensive kit, expensive club memberships and expensive coaching. It’s a suitable activity for almost everyone, regardless of your fitness level.
For the vast majority of people, there’s no excuse not to walk.
WHERE DOES THE 10,000 STEPS PER DAY WALKING ADVICE COME FROM?
The 10,000 steps per day advice came from nothing more than a marketing campaign for the world’s first step counter! It was made by a company called Yamasa and was called the ‘Manpo-Kei’, which roughly translates as ‘10,000 step counter’. Despite that, don’t write it off as a gimmick.
The supporting research was started by Kyushu University of Health and Welfare. They concluded that the average Japanese person walked between 3,500-5,000 steps per day, but suggested if they could up that to 10,000 they would significantly reduce their heart disease risk.
Since then various health groups around the world have aligned themselves with the advice, despite critics from various other sources.
Criticisms of the 10,000 Steps Per Day Advice?
The major critics of the 10,000 steps per day advice say that it doesn’t take into account intensity, saying that there are more effective ways of increasing activity than merely having someone walk for 10,000 steps.
From a strictly scientific point of view, they’re right. I’d suggest there is something more at play here though, something that science is missing, and it’s this… time away from a screen.
It’s really difficult to stare at a screen whilst you walk for any great length of time. Walking is a way of engaging in the real world around you, taking in your surroundings. It’s a way of disengaging your brain, improving circulation around your body and waking you up physically and mentally.
Walking is also an outdoor activity, so it’s an excuse to get out and about, exposing your skin to some vitamin D. It’s also an activity linked with improving posture, bone, muscle and connective tissue health, it has been credited with helping people with back issues and has even been shown to help people overcome foot and ankle complaints.
Whilst it’s not a miracle cure for all ills, walking is a very effective way to de-stress and to improve circulation around the body, waking up areas that have become weakened, shortened and tightened through inactivity.
How To Fit More Walking Into Your Day
This is borderline patronising, so I apologise if it’s too obvious. With less than half of the UK population getting enough walking done though, I’d suggest maybe we need to start actioning some of this advice!
Walk anywhere within 1 mile of your house
Of course there are exceptions – if you’re time pressured or have a lot to carry for example. Failing that, for errands such as small amounts of shopping, nipping to the barbers, dropping your kids at school etc, try to walk there.
Use a step counter
If you’re motivated by numbers, adding a step counter to your day is a way to make you move more. I know it works with me!
Walk with friends
As with other forms of exercise, if you can do it socially, you’re more likely to stick with it. Perhaps try joining or forming a walking group where you live.
How Much Should We Be Walking? Concluded
There’s no set rules, at best there are guidelines. Given the points we’ve raised here though, I’d suggest that if you’re like the majority of people in the UK, the answer to the question ‘how much should we be walking?’ is a pretty simple “more”.
Enjoy! It’ll make you happier and healthier!