How many steps should you do for optimal health?

How many steps should you do for optimal health?

Text: Yeong Sassall

10,000 steps a day? Health coach Kristen Scott explains why it's NOT a myth

Wearable devices that monitor physical well-being and fitness are incredibly popular. Personally, I use the Apple Series 2 watch and have found it very useful for keeping track of my daily steps and sleep patterns. Most of these devices come set with a default goal of 10,000 steps a day, which is a number commonly associated with a basic or moderate level of fitness.

Walking 10,000 daily steps is a required movement

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Should you strive for 10,000 daily steps? Yes! I view this as a basic requirement for optimal health, like drinking adequate amounts of water each day. Your body is designed for frequent movement and many researchers are now starting to reemphasize the importance of walking.

"Walking is a superfood. It's the defining movement of a human."

While walking is often underestimated, studies show you can reap significant health benefits from it.


Many people don't get close to 10,000 steps a day

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Taking 10,000 daily steps means you've walked about 10 kilometres. Many people do not get close to reaching this goal, which is why fitness trackers can be so useful. I recommend using a wearable fitness tracker, to find out how far you normally walk. At first, you may be surprised to realize just how little you move each day. Tracking your steps can also show you how simple and seemingly minor changes to the way you move around at work can add up. You can break up your daily steps into any size increments that work for you. You might walk for one hour in the early morning, 30 minutes during your lunch hour and another hour in the evening. Or you might enjoy taking shorter 20-minute walks throughout your day.


Walking is good medicine

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Walking may not boost your cardiovascular fitness or muscle strength significantly the way more intense exercise does, but it does offer other significant benefits. Taking a walk during your lunch hour can have a significant impact on your mood and help reduce work-related stresses. Walking was also found to improve quality of life for people suffering with depression. For many people, fitting in 10,000 steps a day takes a concerted effort to move around more. You might try, for instance:

  • - Taking walks while making phone calls (use a wired headset or your phone's speaker function)
  • - Walking a few laps around your office building before entering, and after leaving, the building
  • - Using an evening walk as family time to catch up on your kids' and spouse's day
  • Having a walking buddy, such as a neighbor or even your dog, to keep you motivated

Strive to get up and get moving often throughout your day; 10,000 steps is a good number to aim for and should be done in addition to your exercise program. While I do recommend fitness trackers, don't let a lack of one keep you from moving. A pedometer can be equally effective for a fraction of the cost.

Kirsten Scott is a Sydney-based yoga teacher and health coach. Follow her @kirstenscotthealth

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