Walking 10,000 Steps Every Day For a Month
10,000 steps in a single day. That is the amount that many health bodies and organisations say that you should do each day to maintain a healthy lifestyle. But just how easy is it to manage to reach this target on a regular basis, especially if, like me, you work in a sedentary office job?
I have written previously about getting a FitBit Surge (read here) that measures your activity throughout the day and after a couple of months of “getting into the groove”, I have just managed to accomplish an entire month of hitting this target every day. I will outline here how I got over the handicap of my job and how hitting this target has made me feel better about myself. I’ll also touch briefly on why 10,000 has been chosen as the “magic” number and how valid it is to all people.
If you have stumbled across this piece looking for ways to cheat your way to 10k a day then I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed as to me when you are measuring your steps, you are doing it to help yourself and therefore you’re only cheating yourself!
Steps Per Day
5,000 - 7,499
7,500 - 9,999
10,000 - 12,499
Why 10,000 Steps?
Even before I got a Fitbit, I had heard that the target was 10,000 steps a day to be healthy. However, is there any basis in this number and where did it originally come from? Believe it or not the origins actually come from the build up to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics when a pedometer manufacturer launched their manpo-kei (万歩計) device that translates literally as the 10,000 step meter.
As a nicely rounded number the 10,000 steps stuck aided by the fact that research has shown it is not actually flawed. For the average adult it requires additional effort than one would get through on a normal day but at the same time it is achievable. It is a little too low for children and a little too high for older adults with reduced mobility but it is a good target. It also varies based on your current activity levels, if you are already running 10 miles a day then just doing 10k steps will not make much difference, however, if you are completely sedentary then just getting to 7 or 8k steps will help. However, 10,000 is still a great target to aim for, especially when looking to become more active.
To try and context a little why I have become so focused on achieving 10,000 steps a day, I thought it would be useful to do a short “About Me” section. As a kid growing up I lived in a small village so was always running about, playing football, riding my bike etc. I never thought about keeping fit as that was just life. As I got older I started to compete a little more in swimming, running and latterly rowing, a sport I represented my University at and saw me training twice a day, 7 days a week. This saw me drop to my overall lowest adult weight of just 75kg (165lbs) which for a guy who is 1.94m (6’4) tall, is quite light.
After graduating I entered the world of work but even though I was now quite sedentary, I found myself continuing to eat as if I was working out. In the following years my weight has yo-yo’d quite a bit, hitting a max of 100kg (220lbs) which, whilst still only just in to the overweight section of BMI calculations, is still a third more than at my lightest. Each time I get here I diet to get back down to my target weight of 85kg but once there I lose the discipline of filling out my food diary on MyFitnessPal each day and start to get bigger again as I haven’t had the regular exercise regime back in my life.
However, now with three kids that I want to be as fit as I can be to keep up with, and the purchase of my Fitbit Surge earlier in the year, I am hopeful that by aiming to keep my steps up every day, this time I can keep the motivation and discipline to keep my weight at its ideal point.
I always knew that working in an office was quite a sedentary lifestyle but this was really brought to the fore when I first started wearing my Fitbit Surge. On an average day I could now see that I was coming home from work with just 4-5k steps under my belt at most, very much in the sedentary bucket above. To get up to 10k seemed a long way off and for the first couple of months I accepted that on many days I would not get to 10,000 steps, just getting the higher numbers at weekends when naturally I am more active.
However, binge stepping doesn't deliver the same benefits as regularly moving so for me, I needed to change more considerably. There is a difference between knowing this and actually acting on it this pattern continued. I'm not exactly sure what changed but suddenly I realised that I had managed to do three consecutive days of 10,000 steps on weekdays and it hadn't required much extra effort. being of the competitive type, I then wanted to challenge myself and three days became a week, a week a fortnight, a fortnight a month.
It was made easier as there was a necessity to take my son out in his pram as he was struggling to fal asleep and also, being the summer the conditions were more conducive than if it was cold and wet so it probably is easier to start now than at another time.
Tips For Getting To 10k a Day
Knowing that you should be aiming for 10,000 steps is one thing but how easy/hard is it to get to this magic number and what can you do to get there?
Some articles online will give you tips such as parking farther away in a car park, getting off your bus a stop earlier etc. There is no doubt that these will add to your daily step count but in reality, to get to 10,000 steps you will have to make a few more changes in addition to get to this level. Therefore, here are my tips for helping to get you to 10,000 not just for a single day or for a month plus.
- Get a pedometer. Obviously the key thing when you are walking is not to tick a box that you hit the magic 10,000 but actually to get your body moving. As such, you could just take the other tips on board. However, as I mentioned earlier, I was surprised how inactive I really was until I started using my Fitbit. You don't need to shell out on a more expensive watch as a normal belt clip pedometer will help just as much.
- Make some small changes. Whilst parking further away won't push you up to the active level, it won't hurt. I now park in a different car park each morning at work. It maybe adds a couple of hundred steps each day but that is still a couple of hundred more than if I didn't.
- Walk with someone. Going out for a walk on your own can feel quite strange so find someone to walk with. I actually take my son out in his pray each evening for a couple of mile walk that pushes me from my lowly day step count up and above the 10,000 barrier. I also like this as it gives me time to digest the day and clear my head. Previously a few summers back my wife's business enrolled in a walking challenge so we would go out each night that was great. Even at work you could find someone to go with, I know a group of girls who kick off their heels at lunch, throw on their trainers and go for a walk.
- Have a Target. If you are a numbers geek like me then perhaps the satisfaction of hitting a numerical target is enough, or maybe you just like the buzz of your Fitbit as it hits the target. However, for most you will want a reason to get fit. For me I want to get my base line fitness back to previous levels so I can play without worry with my young kids. I don't have the time to go to the gym but regular walking is definitely helping. I have also entered the ballot for the London Marathon for the fourth or fifth time and whilst I don't expect to be lucky enough to get in, if I do I would like to not have to start training from a standing start.
- Walk on the phone. One way I have found to get a few more steps in is when speaking on the phone, rather than sit still, get up and pace. A long phone call can easily knock a few hundred steps out.
- Be true to yourself. No one else really cares if you walk 10k steps a day or not. Therefore there is no point cheating to get to the number. I have found my Fitbit can over react to simple tasks like sweeping the floor or finely cutting vegetables that boosts my step count. I don't want to count fake steps so try. To remember to take my watch off when I am doing these tasks.
How Does It Feel?
There are no awards or prizes for managing 10,000 steps a day but I have to admit that it is extremely gratifying to achieve. Ignoring the mental buzz of achieving goal that I set out for, enhanced by the physical buzz of my watch when I hit the target, has left me feeling all good inside. That is then coupled by an actual physical betterness as a result of a few small changes. My weight isn't quite where I want it to be yet but I feel healthier and have already seen that on starting a running again I am coming at it with a much better base line fitness.
So what next? 50 days, 100 days, a year. Who knows how long I can keep this streak going but what I do know is that even though it will have to come to and end at some point, I feel that I have made some positive, simple changes to my lifestyle, driven simply by doing 10,000 a day.