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Should you forget about walking 10,000 steps a day?

Updated: Mar 2, 2021

Keep calm and walk 10,000 steps today

I will start by tackling and debunking one of the big myths about walking. About 2 years ago I was surprised to learn that the 10,000 steps a day recommendation 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 called Manpo-Kei which they started marketing to the health-conscious. In Japanese, Manpo-Kei when broken down is "man", which means 10,000, "po" means steps and "kei" means meter. So it was, literally, a 10,000 steps meter.

The Manpo-Kei 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 developed this because he was worried that the Japanese were busy importing a slothful American lifestyle, as well as a love of watching baseball, and he wanted to help them get more active. He figured that if he could encourage 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’s how the "10,000 steps a day" regime was born. It was clearly a great marketing success as we’re all still using "10,000 steps a day" as a benchmark for daily fitness. But is it still the most effective way to improve our fitness?

Yes! I absolutely believe walking is one of the most effective ways to improve your fitness. This is because walking doesn’t need a gym; you don’t need a special outfit or shoes. Unlike jogging which can increase cortisol production and stress, walking can lower your stress levels.

Other benefits from walking are:

· Improved management of conditions such as hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol, joint and muscular pain or stiffness, and diabetes

· Stronger bones and improved balance

· Increased muscle strength and endurance

· Reduced body fat / weight maintenance

If walking isn’t part of your day-to-day life, then 10,000 steps a day is a good aim to use to start building the habit. Set the goal today! Goal setting is one of the most important factors in weight maintenance or weight loss because it is the motivation that will drive you to succeed. The subconscious doesn’t differentiate between big or little goals, it only knows success or failure.

How do you achieve the goal of 10,000 steps a day?

I know there are times when you don’t have 1-2 hours to walk, but that’s the amazing thing about walking - you can do it anywhere, at any time. You can walk on the spot when you’re brushing or when you’re watching TV - get up and start walking. If you’re stuck at a desk all day working, try making a faux standing desk out of any waist height surface you have. This is my absolute favourite way to sneak steps in on busy workdays. Right this minute, I’m at my makeshift standing desk as I write this.

If you can’t create a makeshift standing desk, set a reminder on your phone for every 30 minutes to an hour for a quick 5-minute walking break. When you’ve had a meal, instead of putting the dishes in the dish washer, consider walking on the spot as you wash your dishes. Also, while you’re on a phone call, instead of standing or sitting down, get up and walk around your house or office. Sometimes you can spend 30 minutes on a phone call without realising, that’s 30 minutes of walking already done. If you have time at the weekends or during the week, you can add walking time with family or friends.

A lot of the time we plan family or friend get togethers around food. Social eating is a tradition that began more than 1,000 years ago, but when weight loss or even weight maintenance is your main goal try and organise at least 1 - 2 of these get togethers as an activity where you go out and walk. [When you are not in restrictions or lockdown due to COVID-19]. There have been multiple studies that show we’re more likely to eat more when we’re in a social setting. A series of diary studies by health psychologist John de Castro in the 1980s alerted us to social influences in eating. By 1994, de Castro collected diaries of over 500 people, recording their meals and the social context of how they ate them – in company or alone. To his surprise, people ate more in groups than when they were by themselves. De Castro named the phenomenon ‘social facilitation’ and described it as the ‘single most important and all-pervasive influence on eating yet identified. There’s also a greater potential to mindlessly eat when you’re in a social setting, as you are more focused on the conversation than the food you’re eating. So, try once or twice a week to go for a walk and you will be surprised by how much you’ll walk and how much fun you’ll have.

You can listen to an audio book, a podcast or even a motivational talk. I personally use my walking as my time to learn. I love to read and genuinely believe that the more you know the better you are at everything. I use this time to learn something new every day.

Walking can also be used as the time you take to connect with yourself. An hour or two for you to simply breathe and think, maybe even develop clarity by working through any personal problems or big decisions you have to make. You may even discover new things about yourself when you’re simply walking and thinking.

Overall, my thoughts on this are if walking isn’t part of your daily routine then you shouldn’t forget about 10,000 steps, START HERE! When you have successfully established walking into your life then I think you should set your target based on you and your daily life. I personally have a target of 21,000 steps a day that I enjoy. Start with falling in love with walking then set your own targets for success.

Till the next one x

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