10,000 steps per day ....

Let’s start this with some stats…. An average person has a stride length of approximately 2.1 to 2.5 feet. That means that it takes over 2,000 steps to walk one mile; and 10,000 steps would be almost 5 miles or 8km. According to the NHS, the average Briton walks between 3,000 and 4,000 steps a day - significantly less than this target. 

Is it really a goal worth striving for, or might there be something better?

And where did that figure come from?

10,000 steps a day is achievable for most of us. But isn’t it a bit arbitrary? Should a reasonably fit 33-year-old woman and an overweight middle-aged man with high blood pressure and diabetes both really be reaching for the same Holy Grail daily? Is it just a nice round number? Or does medical evidence back it up?

I have been asked this question so many times.. So here we go.

Where did it come from:

You might be surprised to hear it was the result of a 1960s marketing campaign in Japan.

In the run-up to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, a company came up with a device which they started marketing to the health-conscious. It was called a Manpo-Kei. In Japanese, "man" means 10,000, "po" means steps and "kei" means meter. So it was, literally, a 10,000 steps meter. The device was an early pedometer, based on the work of Dr Yoshiro Hatano, a young academic at Kyushu University of Health and Welfare.

Dr Hatano was worried that the Japanese were busy importing a slothful American lifestyle, as well as a love of watching baseball, and wanted to help them get more active. He reckoned that if he could persuade his fellow Japanese to increase their daily steps from 4,000 to around 10,000 then they would burn off approximately 500 extra calories a day and remain slim. That, apparently, was how the "10,000 steps a day" regime was born.

It was clearly a great marketing success. But is it still the most effective way to improve our fitness?

Is it really a goal worth striving for: 

10000 steps
Activity Level

Health and wellbeing is all about being mindful. Are you aware of what your consuming, when your consuming it, how often you exercise, is this exercise tailored to you. 

This is why I quite like the 10,000 steps a day goal… How many of us Late in the day, as you take a step, your wrist starts buzzing. Congratulations. You've hit your target, this feeling is “oddly rewarding” it helps us to stay consistent and mindful, However I don't think 10,000 steps is the magic number. We need to look at the bigger picture, do we have a sedentary job where we sit in front of a computer, do we drive to work or sit on a bus or sit in a car to then get to work and sit at a desk all day . Keeping mobile is what keeps us healthy 10,000 steps a day is marketing goal and a  promotional tool. If this number is the right number for you and keeps you moving and hitting your target then great, but always be mindful of the bigger picture. 

Another one of the major problems with the 10,000-steps-a-day goal is that it doesn't take into account the intensity of exercise. Getting out of breath and increasing your heart rate may well be even more important than the exact number of steps taken. Researchers are currently conducting studies to see whether people who take 10,000 steps a day merely by pottering around their house achieve the same health benefits as those who do so by brisk walking or playing sport.

“More recently, scientists have started looking at cadence, which is the idea of step rate or frequency of stepping,”. “When intensity’s better, your heart is pounding a little faster, more blood goes through your body, things are crossing the cell wall that need to; all these things are happening quicker.”

My take home message: 

There is huge awareness out there about how useful walking is as an intervention,” “It’s so cheap, it’s readily available, and it’s so inexpensive in terms of the individual and the health service. We know that in knee arthritis, an hour of exercise a week decreases disability by 50 per cent. Along with other lifestyle interventions, it decreases the development of diabetes by 48 per cent. We know it’s the best treatment for fatigue, and also the best treatment from a large meta-analysis of trials for anxiety.

We know that, worldwide, physical activity levels are decreasing and obesity levels are increasing. The message isn’t getting through, but when you are trying to change behaviour, goal-setting gives people something to aim for.

So while it is arbitrary, I can guarantee that if we got everyone doing their 10,000 steps a day it would make a huge difference to the health of the nation.

It’s about getting people who do no exercise to do some exercise; it’s not about getting people to do two triathlons instead of one triathlon. 

How sedentary has your life become: 

“I drive to work to sit down at my desk all day, to then sit at the canteen eating my lunch, to then go back to my desk to sit down for the rest of the day. I then get in my car and sit down to drive home ,where I spend the evening sitting on the sofa watching tv, before I climb into bed and lie down to sleep”