The famous 10,000 steps a day theory arose out of research done by Japanese researcher Dr. Yoshiro Hatano in the 1960’s.   He noticed that the average Japanese person walked between 3,500 and 5,000 steps a day. He reasoned that if they were to double this to 10,000 steps a day, they could burn around 20% of their daily caloric intake and enjoy better health and fitness. The problem though was just how did one accurately measure how many steps one was taking!

In 1965 Yamasa Tokei, a Japanese watch maker, came up with the idea of a wearable device that could count how many steps the wearer was taking. The device was called the manpo-kei and it was marketed as the 10,000 steps meter.   Whether or not the name itself actually translates to that remains contentious, as strictly speaking the Japanese word for 10,000 is ‘ichi man’. However the Japanese symbol 万 at the start of the Japanese version of the name is part of   一万, which is Japanese for 10,000.   Elsewhere you’ll also find it stated that manpokei means pedometer.

Exactly how far is 10,000 steps?

Based on the average person’s strides, 10,000 steps is around 5 miles in imperial measurements and 6.6 kilometres in metric. Which is a lot of walking for said average person! Although most of us do manage to do at least half that without particularly thinking about it during our normal daily activities.

However, do we really need to walk 10,000 steps to enjoy the health benefits of walking? Most experts say not. Or at least not in one go. Doing any amount of exercise over and above what you’re currently doing is usually going to be beneficial. You just have to get started and that’s what many of the recommendations around the 10,000 steps idea are about. The concept is as much about trying to fit in as much walking as possible throughout the day. Even if you add 500 to 1000 steps a day to your routine, you’re moving in the right direction. And moving full stop.

For example, if you’re planning to go to the shops, walk there if that’s possible instead of hopping in the car.   Start incorporating a daily stroll into your routine, whether it’s taking the dog for a walk before heading off to work, or when you get home. Or going for a walk on your lunch break. If you can do it with friends so much the better.

Why walking?

Walking is great exercise for a number of reasons. It’s low impact, which means most of us can do it. It improves cardiovascular and pulmonary health, which means a reduction in blood pressure and in the risk of strokes and heart disease. Walking also strengthens muscles and bones as well as improves balance and endurance. Additionally, it improves mood by getting those endorphins happening, which is great for our mental health.

More Health Benefits To Be Had From Walking

Harvard researchers have found that a brisk half hour walk can reduce the effects of 32 ‘obesity-promoting genes’. These are genes that predispose someone to weight gain, but whether or not that person will actually become overweight depends on a lot of lifestyle factors like diet, exercise and overall health.

Studies conducted by the University of Exeter discovered that going for a 15-minute walk instead of giving in to a craving for chocolate stopped the craving. Further research has also found that walking generally helps to reduce cravings for sugary food.

Women who spend at least 7 hours a week walking have a 14% lower risk of getting breast cancer than women who only walk 3 hours or less a week. Even for women in the high-risk bracket ie using hormones supplements or being overweight. That’s the news out of the American Cancer Society.

If you’ve ever suffered any type of joint pain in your legs you’ll know the truth in this one – walking helps ease this pain. In fact, walking reduces your chances of developing debilitating disorders like arthritis period because it protects joints like hips and knees by improving joint lubrication and strengthening the supportive muscles around the joints.

Walking is also proven to help boost the functioning of your immune system.   A brisk daily 20 minute walk during cold and flu season can reduce the number of sick days you experience. Furthermore, if you do get sick your symptoms are likely to be milder and you won’t be sick for as long either.

Hippocrates made the observation that “Walking is a man’s best medicine” more than 2000 years ago.   History (and research) have proven him right.

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