Walking is undoubtedly one of the most simple and effective ways to stay active. Going to a local sabzi market to buy veggies instead of buying online or dropping your kid to school can help you to get your daily dose of walking. The World Health Organization and the American Heart Foundation have gradually adopted 10,000 steps as a daily recommendation. According to a study published in the journal Sports Medicine 10,000 steps/day appears to be a reasonable estimate of healthy daily activity for adults. In order to classify pedometer-determined physical activity in healthy adults it lists:
Less than 5000 steps/day as ‘sedentary lifestyle index’
Between 5000 to 7499 steps/day as ‘low active’
Between 7500 to 9999 steps/day as ‘somewhat active’
More than or equal to 10,000 steps/day as ‘active’
More than 12500 steps/day as ‘highly active’
If you have installed a pedometer app and are planning to achieve the target of “10,000” steps a day, then these everyday chores can go a long way to help you reach the goal. Before you get started with your 10,000 steps, read this!
Is shopping the same as brisk walking?
One of the major hindrances with the 10,000 steps a day goal is that it doesn’t take into account the intensity of the workout . The quality of a physical activity matters more than the actual number of steps that appears on your pedometer. For example
– Taking a stroll around your office premises to grab a cup of tea coffee
– Spending your weekends window shopping at a nearby mall
– Taking the stairs instead of lift on your way to work
– Walking as you talk on your phone every time you get a call
– Visiting canteen or conference room for a quick chat
Taking 10,000 steps while shopping for groceries isn’t as effective as a brisk walk. These simple day-to-day activities can help you to lower your risk of health problems caused by sitting for long hours at a stretch and help you add a good number of steps to your target of 10,000 steps but these may not be the same as brisk walking. Your pedometer counts them equally, but your body doesn’t treat them so.
However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) doesn’t necessarily recommend 10,000 steps a day. Instead, the CDC suggests that adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity coupled with some form of muscle-strengthening activity every week which translates to walking between 7,000-8,000 steps a day. Keeping this in mind, you can aim for around 8000 steps of moderate intensity activity such as brisk walking. The additionally 2000 steps can comprise of common day to day activities such as walking when shopping, travelling by bus or train, playing with kids, talking on the phone, visiting washroom or canteen, etc. If you add just 2,000 more steps a day (about an extra 1 mile of walking) to your regular activities, you may prevent gaining extra weight. Remember extra steps translate to burning extra calories.
10000 steps are not for YOU if…
A goal of 10,000 steps/day may also not be sustainable for elderly people and those with any injury or pain. If you suffer from chronic joint problems such as osteoporosis or arthritis, then attaining 10000 steps a day may not be advised. In such a case, aiming for a set number of minutes per day or week rather than targeting a certain number of steps per day gives you more flexibility to move at your own pace.
If you suffer from heart disease, hypertension or diabetes or are obese, then walking 10000 steps a day can be a great idea to kickstart your physical fitness. Talk to your doctor before you start off with these recommendations to know if you are eligible to do so.
The goal of 10,000 steps/day as a universal step goal can be probably too low for the younger population. In such a case, incorporating other forms of exercise such as strength-training, cycling or swimming along with brisk walking can add an element of fun and zest to your daily routine.
Tips To Make Your Steps Count
A Pedometer is a simple yet important tool that helps assess and motivate physical activity behaviors. By tracking your total daily steps with a pedometer, you can see how many steps you take on an average day. Your pedometer’s online dashboard often allows you to set your own goal rather than just accepting the standard 10,000 steps per day.
Once you’ve worked out your goals, try these ideas for squeezing more walking into your routine :
Try the magic of music. Tune into something with a strong beat that can make an activity more enjoyable and motivate you to walk farther and faster.
Set reminders on your calendar for short walking breaks to ramp up your energy throughout the day.
Choose a parking spot that’s farther away from your office or home. If you take bus, try to get off a stop early and walk the rest of the way.
Use stairs instead of elevator. Even climbing down the stairs count as steps, burns calories and requires you to engage more physically.
Be consistent. Force yourself to walk each and every day without any excuses. If you force yourself to do something each and every day for 30 days, it becomes a habit that eventually turns into a lifestyle. 
Count your steps. Having a predefined goal can motivate you to increase your activity and exercise. Of course, if you are less active, you may set a lower step goal to start with. And if you are already logging 10,000 steps a day and not losing weight or maintaining your weight, then the key is to set your daily goal higher while keeping physically active.
Chart your steps or activity each day to monitor and track your results and set daily or weekly goals. Observe how you improve over time. For this, gradually start working your way up by setting short-term goals and slowly adding about 1,000 steps a day for two weeks. Incorporate a planned walking program as per your schedule. You can either do it all at once or break your walking into small sets of 10-minutes based as per your convenience. When you meet your target short-term goal, add a new one.
At the end of the day, whether you’re walking 8,000 steps, 10,000 steps or 12,000 steps a day, it’s important to get moving. Time to lace up your sneakers!
(The article is reviewed by Dr. Swati Mishra, Medical Editor)
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