Walking 10,000 steps a day can be quite the feat, as a professional across any age range can tell you. Scheduling time to walk around work, family, and socialize can quickly derail any momentum in the quest for the golden number of steps. And although the numerous benefits counted among studies of this general fitness prescription include improved cardiovascular health, improved mental health, and cancer-fighting properties, these facts aren’t adding hours to the day.
So, what can the average American do to improve their health whilst managing their limited time?
Research published in the journal “Mayo Clinic Proceedings” points to a better metric for improving one’s health: speed.
A prescription was given to 679 adults to walk 70% of their aerobic capacity for 3 minutes, followed by 40% of their aerobic capacity for 3 minutes, over the course of 5 months. The results suggested added benefits to the already robust benefits of walking: improved cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and lower risk for diabetes.
Lead researcher Shizue Masuki, Ph.D., of Shinshu University noted that the 10,000 steps a day prescription never took speed into account, a factor that seems pivotal in the hunt for better overall health.
In another study done by Associate professor Borja del Pozo Cruz from the University of Southern Denmark, findings show that less active individuals can still see benefits with steps as low as 3,800 a day. These benefits include a drop in the risk of developing dementia by 25 percent.
Now, this may come as a shock to some fitness enthusiasts who are looking to improve their health with actionable steps (pun, very much intended). However, it may help to understand where the 10,000-step prescription came from.
In 1965, Yamasa Clock, a Japanese company, made a personal fitness pedometer. The name was “Manpo-Kei,” which translates to “10,000 steps meter”. Not to mention, the Japanese character for this name looks like a person walking. Since the launch of this product, the 10,000-step prescription has made its rounds in fitness circles largely unchecked. Only recently has there been significant research into the correlation between steps and health markers.
Now, this is not to discredit the usefulness of counting steps. According to research, every 2,000 steps added to your routine is a step in the right direction. Health benefits increase up until roughly 7,500 steps, where added benefits are tampered off.
The takeaway? Do Your Best; do it with vigor; don’t stress about it.