The default goal for most people is 10,000 steps a day, and it’s a figure that the media has repeatedly hailed as the ultimate daily goal. Most people believe that the 10,000 steps figure came from Japan in the run-up to the 1964 Toyko Olympics, when pedometers boomed in popularity and one company came up with the ‘manpo-kei’ – a device that means ’10,000 step meter’.
In the UK, 10,000 is still a ballpark figure, with the UK National Obesity Forum stating that 7,000 to 10,000 steps a day qualifies someone as ‘moderately active’. Most supporters of the step count assert that it’s an easier way to measure exercise than something potentially off-putting. For example, in a busy society like our own, 150 minutes of exercise a week sounds a lot – whereas 10,000 steps, integrated into the day, is more achievable.
But is it right? Many scientists and academics say that while it’s a good general ballpark figure, the amount of steps you actually need to do depends on everything from your height and weight to your fitness level. If you’re shorter, 10,000 steps will require more exertion than it would for a taller person with a larger stride. Similarly, someone who regularly exceeds 10,000 steps a day – for example, a regular runner – might require more exercise to keep up their fitness levels, whereas someone who only walks 4,000 steps a day will have to build up to a larger goal.
Ultimately, it’s all about what you need for your own fitness goals. 10,000 is a great goal, so if you’re below that level, work up to achieving it. Beyond that, you can keep increasing your step count to a different goal every month or two.
If 10,000 steps seems impossible, don’t despair. Here are six ways you can integrate more steps into your day with little extra time or effort…
Take a walk at lunch
Instead of slumping over your desk reading something on your screen, take a walk once you’ve finished your food. Whether it’s a five-minute stroll or a 20-minute walking natter with your colleagues, you’ll feel refreshed and ready to get back to it afterwards.
Get off a stop early
When you travel on the bus, whether it’s for work or pleasure, get off a stop before your normal one and walk the rest of the way. Repeat on the way back – if you have time – for extra steps and a great way to wind down.
Park further away
Whether you drive to work or you’re nipping to the shops, choose a car parking space the furthest away from the building to add a few steps to your goal. Even better, park on a side street a few streets away for extra exercise.
Use a different toilet
If you work in a multi-storey office, walk to the bathroom on the next floor next time you need a toilet break. As well as the extra steps, you’ll be adding in stairs – a great way to build muscle and stamina.
Step away from the keyboard
Next time you’re about to email a co-worker or pick up the phone, step away from your desk and walk over to theirs instead. This also applies for meetings: if you don’t need the aid of a screen, video call or lots of paperwork, consider a walking meeting with a colleague to catch up while you exercise.
Make after-dinner strolling a habit
It can be difficult to find time to bond with your family during the week, but making time for a 10-minute stroll after dinner is a great way to catch up as well as increasing the step count for the whole family.