Walking is a great way to shape up and get fit. But do you need to walk 10000 steps a day for walking to take effect? Here, we look at the benefits of walking for health and take a look at how to tailor your walks to meet your health goals.
Where did 10000 steps come from?
The idea of walking 10000 steps a day dates back to a campaign before the 1964 Olympic Games. A Chinese company introduced the pedometer and suggested, in its marketing garb, that this number of steps, taken daily, would lead to a great improvement in health.
This isn’t always the case for everybody, however, and can, in some cases, be a step or a thousand, too far. Just how beneficial is walking and how much do you have to do for it to make a difference?
The benefits of walking
There are many benefits to walking both for enjoyment and weight loss. Walking is beneficial to mind, body and soul:
- Mood enhancing. If you’ve had a rough day, a glass of wine or a nibble of chocolate may blunt the sharp edges but a walk for 10 or 20 minutes in the park or power walk around the block is not only zero-calories but also a great way of zapping stress.
- Burns calories and helps manage your weight. Walking is one of those exercises that doesn’t ‘feel’ like exercise. Not everyone enjoys physical activity and so if your idea of hell is a structured workout, walking could be the right move. Whether as a standalone exercise or as part of your daily routine (walking the dog or or to the shops), walking is great for burning calories and keeping your weight down.
- Improves digestion. For many families, a brisk walk after a heavy meal such as Christmas dinner has long been a tradition. There’s a reason why: walking aids digestion. Walking is a form of exercise that benefits your entire body, including your joints, muscles and aspects such as digestion.
- Low impact. Some forms of exercise may produce results fast, especially for losing weight and toning. However, they can have an impact on the body. Running, for example, is a great form of exercise but is considered high impact. This means your joints, especially your knees, hips and ankles are under pressure every time your foot strikes the floor. With walking, you don’t have the same impact vibrating through your skeleton.
- Aids sleep. All exercise will help you sleep better, and walking is no different. Not only does your body feel sleepy post-walk, but it also tires the mind. That means when it comes to bedtime, you may find that sleep comes a lot easier.
Should you be aiming for 10000 steps a day?
Many people own a smartwatch that allows you to set a step target. For decades, the 10000 steps a day target has circulated as being the epitome of staying fit through walking. Since the marketing ploy of the pedometer back in the 60s, there have been various pieces of research into 10,000 steps a day and whether this is the golden target when it comes to walking.
The good news that the figure is lower at around 7500 steps a day. A large study found that the increments in steps taken per day were important. For people who walked less than 500 steps a day initially, there was an improvement as soon as they started to push this figure up. For those that want to use walking as a weight-loss tool, the more steps you take, the better.
Varying your walking routine
Of course, walking isn’t just about a stroll around the park or a certain length of workout on a treadmill. Varying your routine is just as important, as is the number of steps:
- Vary your pace – a leisurely stroll is delightful but try speeding up your walking pace. At the start, use short bursts of faster walking, then a slower pace to give you time to recover. Repeat for 20 minutes without stopping.
- Vary the length of your walks. A longer walk can be taken at a consistent pace or try a shorter walk at a faster pace.
- Small walks work just as well. Hopping off the bus, tram or tube a few stops too early, so you get a slightly longer walk to and from home or the office help to nudge your step count a little higher. And don’t forget to take the stairs instead of the lift too.
If you intend to walk to lower your weight then you need to make an effort to vary your walking pattern, as well as monitoring your progress, just as you would any other form of exercise.
For example, a comfortable and supportive pair of walking shoes or trainers are essential. With a cushioned sole, they will absorb the impact of when your feet strike the floor. Protecting and looking after your feet also means that you can continue with your walking regime without painful blisters.
A pedometer is also a great idea. Not only can you track your number of steps but also how your heart rate is too. For any exercise to burn calories and aid weight loss, you want your heart rate to increase. A good measure, if you don’t have a pedometer, is to walk at a pace that leaves you slightly short of breath.
Walking gets you out in the fresh air, lifting your mood and helping to manage your weight. If you want to lose weight, however, walking is also a great exercise to indulge in.
This is because it is a versatile form of exercise. As well as varying the length of your walk, you can also vary the intensity. And because we walk during the day at work, as we shop etc, it is possible to increase the number of steps taken to aid in losing weight and, better still, help us tone up too!
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