Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
The science is unanimous; we can walk our way to better health! But the question in everyone’s mind is about how far we need to walk to make a difference in our lives. How many steps a day do we need to do to reap the benefits of walking?
We can credit walking for improving our health and well-being and increasing longevity. Walking could be the perfect solution for those seeking better health and weight management solutions. But do you actually need to walk 10 000 steps? Or is it a case of ‘less is more?’
Is 10,000 steps the magic number?
We think we should aim for the widely accepted figure of 10,000 steps per day. But this figure was plucked from thin air sixty years ago as part of a marketing campaign for a company selling pedometers. Yep, we’re afraid the 10,000 steps per day goal is arbitrary and wasn’t based on science. It was simply a nice, easy number for people to remember.
However, this figure isn’t far off the scientific recommendation.
A study from 2020 published in the Journal of American Medical Association found a 51% decrease in risk of all-cause mortality when participants achieved 8,000 steps per day compared to participants who only took 4,000 steps per day. The participants who managed 12,000 steps per day broadened the gap further, with a 65% reduction in risk compared to the lowest step group.
Interpretation of this data highlights the significant benefit of aiming for over 10,000 steps per day. Walking more than 10, 000 steps is likely to lead to further benefits. But, it also reassures us that around 8,000 steps per day will still provide profound health improvements.
Weight loss and maintenance through general activity?
Losing weight and maintaining this loss is more complex than just tracking calories and increasing our activity levels.
Specifically, any drastic changes to our habits can result in the opposite result of what we intended. For instance, when we limit our calorie intake, we increase cortisol, a stress hormone, in our bodies. This increase in cortisol can cause our body to panic that it is in starvation mode, and as a result, it starts storing fat.
There are a myriad of diets available to help people lose weight. The reality is though, that many of them are not sustainable. You might even have experienced it yourself. In one study on weight loss maintenance, only 20 percent of participants who lost 10 percent of their body weight were able to keep it off for a year or more.
That’s where maintaining a good level of physical activity comes in.
Aerobic exercises such as swimming, cycling, and running may help burn calories but they also increase our appetite. We build muscle mass by including resistance exercises, also known as strength work. A higher muscle mass is associated with a higher metabolism, which means you burn more calories even at rest.
When we look at the big picture, physical activity aids weight loss in the short term through calorie burning. In the long term, physical activity aids weight maintenance by contributing to quality sleep and building muscle mass, which helps to create that coveted ‘fast metabolism’ you’ve heard about.
Four ways to maximize your steps per day
For optimum health, we must eat sensibly and move more. It’s all well and good knowing how many steps we should be taking a day (8000!) but how do we translate this into our daily lives?
Here are 4 easy to apply tips to help you increase your daily step count.
If we want to increase our daily steps, we need to take steps. How many car journeys do you take when you could walk instead? A 5-minute car journey to pick up milk is an excellent opportunity to swap the tires for trainers and walk it out.
During COVID-19, walking meetings became a popular alternative to being stuck in a static position in front of a desk.
The first step in increasing your daily steps is walking whenever possible.
2. Take the stairs
Escalators, lifts, and travelators give us the perfect excuse to stand idle. But they don’t help with our step count.
Don’t follow your colleagues into the lift; take the stairs. Think of it this way – stairs may take longer, but they may well give us back time in terms of delayed mortality.
3. Find a walking buddy
If motivation is an issue, how about meeting a friend to go walking? Or you may consider getting a dog; that is a sure way to increase your daily steps. In fact, pet ownership can:
- Increase fitness levels.
- Lower blood pressure.
- Relieve stress.
- Improve mental health.
- Boost happiness and well-being.
Another option is to join a local walking or rambling group. These groups cater to all fitness levels and usually have people of all ages. Socializing and keeping fit simultaneously is the perfect recipe for heightened well-being.
4. Challenge yourself
Personal challenges are a great way to incentivize yourself to increase your daily step count. Maybe there is a mountain you would love to climb, but you don’t feel fit enough. Perhaps it’s time to train toward this goal. Maybe you want to participate in a local walking event and work toward improving your time.
Focusing on incremental goals makes us more likely to achieve our long-term goals.
We know the 10,000 daily steps goal is arbitrary, but it’s not far off the scientifically recommended steps per day.
When we get at least 8,000 steps into our daily lives, we improve our health and well-being and reduce our risk of all-cause mortality. When you pair this with a balanced diet, you’ll reap health benefits in the long term. While Whisk can’t help you get more steps (sorry, we wish we could do it for you!), we can help you make good nutrition choices.
Simply sign up with Whisk to access healthy recipes and health-minded communities. Plus, our nutrition calculator can provide detailed nutritional information for any recipe, helping you to make informed food decisions.
Words by Ali Hall