The Japanese call it “Manpo-kei” — literally, 10,000 steps meter.
Since the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, when Japan was rigidly focused on fitness, (both individual and collective), there has been a pervasive theory among fitness gurus that 10,000 steps is necessary as a base line to maintain proper health. Any exercise beyond 10,000 steps is simply extra.
10,000 steps, by the way, is about 5 miles.
Dozens of studies have been completed trying to assess the validity of the 10,000 step claim in the last 50 years.
Some, like the University of Ghent’s study, corroborate that it produces a healthy and positive effect, but only if you stick to the habit.
Others, like a Harvard study completed several years ago, insisted that the whole fad began with a Japanese clock company’s marketing campaign that was trying to sell pedometers. That study suggests that although walking a ton of steps is helpful, 10,000 steps might not be the right number. Benefits start to be seen around 4,400 steps, and the benefits seem to cap at 7,500 steps.
Rather than 10,000 steps per day, the metric should be how much sustained physical activity an adult needs to stay healthy.
Here’s what you really need for healthy weight loss and maintenance:
- Burning 200–300 calories per day
- Moderate to vigorous exercise.
That’s the secret sauce. Now, depending on your weight, you can burn between 250 and 600 calories by walking 10,000 steps.
So you may not need 10,000 steps. But 10,000 steps can help you achieve what you do need — near constant motion and activities.
The trick is that unless you have a very active job, or already have strong exercise habits, 10,000 steps can be almost impossible to log with your walk from the parking garage to the office, the walk back, your trips to the laundry room at home, and shuffling around the kitchen during dinner.
Every person is different. The more out-of-shape a person is, the more steps they’ll require to reach the equilibrium of a conventionally fit person.
And if 10,000 steps seems completely unreachable…
There are some simple ways to help you get that big number and get closer to your goals.
Let’s examine some of them.
Get the Right Fitness Tracker
Using your phone or a hip pedometer gives you a skewed number.
Tracking steps on your phone means you’ll lose every step you take when your phone isn’t on you — do you take your phone with you everywhere?
Using a hip pedometer logs motions that may not be steps, like sweeping with a broom.
Tracking the number on a fitness watch gives you an easily accessible and accurate understanding of how far you’re going living the way you’re currently living.
That brings us to…
Adding Distance on Foot
Take the stairs. Park the farthest. Get up during your lunch break and walk the full half hour, forty-five minutes, hour.
When you get home from work, don’t sit down for an hour. Do as much around the house as you can for a full hour, and then reward yourself with a seat.
Once you get used to walking more, maybe after two weeks of consciously treading, start to take walks.
Need more silence in your life? Leave your phone at home and just walk. Trying to make an effort to read more? Download an audio book and walk and listen.
Bring your pet and walk at their pace, not yours.
Walk After Eating
After every meal, walk for fifteen minutes. Not only will that help with your digestion, but you’re less likely to feel sluggish and tired after eating.
Walking after eating will help track how regularly you take meals as well as punctuating your day with positive reinforcement.
March in Place
Instead of sinking further into the couch during commercial breaks, don’t fast forward. Don’t let your eyes glaze over.
Stand up and march in place. Walk to the kitchen and back until the commercial break is over.
Always be alert for moments of inaction you can convert to kinetic activity.
Don’t Save Yourself a Trip
In fact, split your groceries, your laundry, your cups-and-plates-march into as many trips as you can.
Take one cup down from your room to the kitchen at a time.
Only carry in one bag of groceries with each trip.
You’ll be surprised how quickly your steps add up when you’re not desperately trying to reduce your movement.
Do you need 10,000 steps a day to be healthy?
Realistically, you need about 5,000 steps a day.
But if you work an office job, and you get winded walking up the stairs, and you want to kick your metabolism into gear, 10,000 steps a day is not by any means unattainable.
For more care-informed education on getting out our own way, head on over to the Urban Monk Academy — all courses designed and taught by me, and free for two weeks.