Each day, we’re bombarded with stories about the world’s widening waistlines. The media tells us we eat terrible food and lead sedentary lifestyles that cause weight gain and chronic disease.
With all the conflicting advice that tends to appear in those news stories, is there any suggestion we can take to the bank?
One idea that’s stood the test of time is the recommendation that we should all walk 10,000 steps every single day. Is this number realistic and healthy, or is it based on junk science?
The 10,000 Steps Began in Japan
The concept of walking 10,000 steps a day came from a company that manufactured a pedometer in Japan in the 1960s. However, it’s unclear whether they chose the number because of marketing or the Japanese affinity for the number 10,000.
If you consider the diet and nutrition of the average resident of Japan in the 1960s, you’d come up with an incredibly different number than the average calorie consumption of an American today.
Numbers recorded by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. suggest we have about 1,000 more calories available to us each day than the Japanese had in the 1960s.
Can We Rely on 10,000 Steps?
Some researchers suggest the idea of 10,000 steps is arbitrary, and it’s not appropriate for everyone. Walking 10,000 steps means you’ll travel about five miles, which isn’t difficult for someone in good shape.
However, anyone who leads a sedentary lifestyle might balk at the thought of walking five miles, and a large percentage of Americans spend virtually no time exercising. To encourage the adoption of a healthy walking habit, the best goal for sedentary people might hover somewhere between 2,500 and 5,000 steps, according to an article on Huff Post.
Interestingly, the goal of 10,000 steps for an active adult could even sabotage fitness efforts. A person in relatively decent shape might walk 10,000 steps a day and think twice about going out to exercise, believing those 10,000 steps counted as a workout.
How Many Steps Should We Walk?
As science pulls us in a million different directions for healthy eating and exercise advice, maybe the takeaway here is that there is no “one size fits all” approach to diet and fitness.
Healthcare professionals universally praise exercise, and the American Heart Association even recommends brisk walking for reducing high blood pressure, bad cholesterol, and diabetes.
So, what’s right for you? Check your current fitness level, and be honest with yourself. If you’re in great shape, don’t assume 10,000 steps is enough to keep you healthy. If you’re sedentary, choose a small goal like 2,500 steps a day, and walk your way to a healthy daily exercise habit.