As I’ve mentioned once or twice before, I am on a health and fitness journey as I’m fast approaching my 30th birthday. I don’t want to focus on weight loss, but I do want to incorporate healthy habits into my day-to-day life. I already own a Fitbit, which I use mainly to track my workouts and sleep, so walking 10,000 steps a day was something I felt I could attempt since I had one of the tools already.
Benefits of Walking 10,000 Steps a Day
Upon researching, I found that there is no correlation between walking 10,000 steps a day and being healthy. It became obvious that "10,000 steps" was just a nice, round number that gained popularity when everyone started buying step counters. It might be the recommended number of daily steps from Fitbit when you set up your account, but you’re able to change that to a more attainable goal for your own lifestyle.
Fitbit broke down the math of why they recommend 10,000 steps in a blog post. The number is ultimately to lose 1 pound a week and to maintain weight loss.
However, when talking to former Surgeon General, Dr. Kenneth P. Moritsugu, MD, MPH, FACPM. Rear Admiral, USPHS, the daily step count you actually need is half of the step counter recommendation. He said:
"The number of steps a person takes in a day is not an ideal benchmark nor is it an accurate indicator of physical health. In fact, the concept of walking 10,000 steps a day as the minimum for good health was inspired by marketing, not science, when a Japanese company launched a new pedometer named the “10,000-step meter” with the slogan, “Let’s walk 10,000 steps a day.” In 2019, a study went on to confirm that taking only 4,400 steps can be beneficial to your health. Instead, regular exercise should be the goal, even if it is just 20 minutes per day."
In short, it's less about taking a precise number of steps, and more about meeting a minimum number of active minutes. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, adults need between 150 and 200 minutes a week of moderate-to-intensity activity. That kind of activity includes:
If you’re looking for more intense activities, the recommendation is about 75 to 150 minutes a week. Those activities include:
The benefits of walking (not running) are very widely touted. In a 30 minute walk, you can burn between 150 to 300 calories, depending on your weight and fitness levels. The American Heart Association lays out the benefits quite well:
How to Walk 10,000 Steps a Day
Ahead of doing this assignment, I did some research to check out other articles where people attempted this challenge. I think the most annoying thing I saw was “easy” ways to walk 10,000 steps a day. If you were not already walking that many steps a day because of work, it is not easy. Going from 2,000 to 10,000 is no simple jump.More Shopping
Many people recommended things like:
All of these suggestions seemed dumb to me. Get off at the wrong stop? And get lost? Crazy. While I can attest that drinking water means getting up to pee more, those steps barely add up when the bathroom is within sight of your desk.
Previously, I got about 8,000 steps a day when I was commuting into Manhattan. I had to walk through the train station, rush to the subway, then walk to my office. And do it all over again on my way home. Those commuting steps really added up. Now that I am working from home, I am barely getting 3,000 steps a day.
For myself, I chose some of the other recommendations I saw:
I have a dog. That was an easy one for me. I’ve gotten lazy since it is cold out. To try to fix that, I decided walking my dog was going to be my #1 way to tackle hitting that 10,000 step goal. I can kill two birds with one stone by making lunch then walking Tyrone after. I also will die before making two trips from my car with groceries or laundry. But I forced myself to stop being so stubborn. And finally, I try to work out 5 times a week while doing this, which is an easy way to hit step goals.
My Experience Walking 10,000 Steps a Day
I came up with a plan to attempt either three 15-minute walks a day, a 10-minute walk and a 20-minute walk, or a 30-minute walk each day of this challenge, depending on my schedule. I actually wound up walking almost 45 minutes a day on the days that I did go for a walk. Tyrone is hard to get back inside once you get him going!
I also decided to try and think of ways to add to my step count that weren’t necessarily walking. I wrote up a list of ways to get to 10,000 steps that aren’t walking:
Since I was actively trying to hit 10,000 steps, I knew that I had to be conscious of my movements. Step counter users probably know this already, but I want to reiterate that these trackers are counting movement, not your actual steps, and if they're attached to your arm they're prone to miscalculation. For example, if you're at the grocery store pushing a shopping cart, you can easily get 2,000 steps, but most of them won't be counted since your arm isn't moving. Or, if you do a heavy rowing session, it will count a lot of steps, even though your feet never moved. It is a flawed system, yet it plagues everyone. Apple Watch users can download an app called Pedometer++ to sync Apple Health data from your phone to your watch.
I don't own an Apple Watch and I didn't hear about this app until after my experiment. So I just did my best to make sure I never held anything in my left hand while walking – the reason being you swing your arm significantly less if you're holding something, and that can confuse your step count.
While walking is the most obvious way to reach 10,000 steps, I had to get creative – especially after a blizzard hit. My creativity paid off, and my highest step count day was actually a day that I did not go for a walk at all.
I tend to get more steps on the weekends because I am running errands or doing chores, and one Sunday I did an experiment: I had four loads of laundry to do, and five bins of Christmas decor to put away in storage. On a regular laundry day, I get between 6,000 and 8,000 steps, because I tend to overload my arms and drag things so I only have to make one trip. By not being stubborn and taking the extra trip or two, I got over 11,500 steps.
As I mentioned, there was a blizzard going on during all this (In retrospect, I picked a bad time of year to challenge myself with a daily step-count). However, I am staying positive and saying that having to get creative while stuck inside could benefit others in a similar situation. Some other high-yield step activities included deep cleaning. I usually spot clean every other day, but I upped that to every day during this challenge. I swept, cleaned my counters, and put away clean dishes. On a deep clean day, I swept, washed the floors, wiped down the entire bathroom, and organized my closets. A good deep clean got over 4,000 steps, all while stuck inside of my apartment.
Can I walk 10,000 steps a day for the rest of my life? Hell no. Can I walk more than I have been for the last 10 months during the pandemic? Hell yes. I can and I will. I felt great after walking so much. Especially after I walked in the morning.
Going from walking 3,000 steps to 10,000 steps is a huge jump. For the sake of the article, I did it, but Fitbit recommends not being quite so extreme. To build up to 10,000, you can take your current step count, add 1,000 to it for the first week, and then gradually build up from there. That is probably a more sustainable way to get to 10,000 steps if you really want to hit that number and consistently keep at it.
I don't plan to do 10,000 a day moving forward, but I'd be thrilled with 6,000 steps during the week and 8,000 steps on the weekends. By adding just one 30-minute walk or two 15-minute walks a day is an easy way to achieve this goal for me. Naturally, my dog approves of this decision, since he gets more walks out of it.
Trackers for Hitting 10,000 Steps a Day
As I mentioned, I used a Fitbit for this experiment. My mom got them for the whole family eight years ago and I've been loyal ever since. I've had a few different versions over time, but my favorite is the Versa 2, since it doubles as a smartwatch. I do not need to tell you that Apple Watches are very popular and have their own loyalty group. And then there are some knock-off versions of both. All these, and a few more, are listed below.
Fitbit Versa 2Fitbit Versa 2 Health and Fitness SmartwatchFitbitamazon.com$228.00Shop Now
Fitbit Charge 4Fitbit Charge 4fitbitamazon.com$199.00Shop Now
Apple Watch Series 6New Apple Watch Series 6 (GPS, 40mm)Appleamazon.com$454.00Shop Now
Apple Watch Series 3Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS, 38mm)Appleamazon.com$219.99Shop Now
Apple Watch SENew Apple Watch SE (GPS, 40mm)Appleamazon.com$271.05Shop Now
LETSCOM Smart Watch Fitness TrackerLETSCOM Smart Watch Fitness TrackerLETSCOMamazon.com$35.99Shop Now
LETSCOM Fitness Tracker HRLETSCOM Fitness Tracker HRLETSCOMamazon.com$27.99Shop Now