Fitness trackers, such as Fitbit and Nike fuel, have gained popularity in the past several years. All of these gadgets tell you how many steps you are taking a day, but how many steps should you be taking? How can something as simple as walking be so good for you?
Research shows that just 30 minutes of brisk walking can produce health benefits and burn around 200 Calories. “Brisk” means that your heart rate is elevated, you feel comfortable conversing, but singing would be too difficult. For weight loss, 60 minutes of brisk walking can burn up to 500 Calories. Moderately stressing the body in this way can reduce your chances of developing diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension. Brisk walking can even reverse many of the negative side-effects of these conditions if they pre-exist. From a quality of life standpoint, walking has been shown to improve your mood, reduce stress, and strengthen your bones. A article from 2010 explains:
“The Global Corporate Challenge (GCC) looked at 60,000 workers in 55 countries who aimed to walk 10,000 steps every day for eight months. At the end of the challenge, 67 percent of participants reported an increase in fitness and energy levels and participants lost an average of 10 pounds each – just from walking. After four months of taking part in the study, the number of GCC participants with high blood pressure was reduced by 34 percent, while waist size was reduced by an average of two inches. Participants who stuck to walking 10,000 steps, which equals almost five miles, a day for one year were able to maintain blood pressure, keep the weight off and decrease their BMI.”
In light of this evidence, it is important to assess how many steps you are currently taking. After a few weeks of tracking steps, you should be able to have a general idea of how many steps you average daily. Obtaining less than 5000 steps is considered “sedentary”—a category strongly associated with increased weight and risk for developing various diseases.
Depending on where you fall within these guidelines, one strategy may be to increase from one activity category to the next. For example, if you regularly get under 5000 steps, rather than trying to increase immediately to 10,000 steps, try taking somewhere between 5000-8000 steps per day. This gets you out of the “sedentary” category without being too drastic of a change.
It is important to create goals that are both realistic and attainable for yourself. 10 minutes of brisk walking equates roughly 1000 steps. You may want to start by setting a goal of walking for 10 minutes extra once or twice per day. From there, you can gradually add in another 10 minute session or lengthen the duration of each session (from 10 minutes to 12). Set an alarm on your phone or ask a friend to remind you to walk for 10 minutes.
In order to increase your daily activity, assess your workplace and home life for opportunities to walk. For example, in one minute, a 150 pound person burns approximately 10 calories walking up stairs and only 1.5 calories riding an elevator. Try to see how many steps you can get while waiting for your food to heat in the microwave. Or, park several parking spaces further than normal. Little goals like these significantly increase your activity for the day. The opportunities are there, you just have to find them!