The idea of taking at least 10,000 steps a day for better health is a Japanese import from a group of researchers led by Dr. Yoshiro Hatano, and it's become popular in American society in the past few years with the availability of high-tech pedometers and tracking devices. But should it be the be-all and end-all when it comes to improving your fitness level?
My two cents: Measuring the number of steps you take daily offers many positive elements to help you reach your fitness goals, but it should not be the only thing you measure to get there.
What Tracking Steps Will Help You Do
1. Shift your mentality. Tracking the number of steps you take a day is more of a behavioral change than a physical one. [Tweet this!] Of course there is a physical element involved, however shooting for this goal on a daily basis is a big mental shift because you're constantly measuring your fitness goal throughout your day instead of just the hour that you hit the gym. The idea of taking 10,000 steps daily encourages you to change your life without changing your lifestyle.
2. Burn more calories. Simply put, if you are walking more, you are burning more calories throughout the day.
3. Improve body composition and promote cardio-respiratory fitness. Walking helps increase bone density and also strengthens your lower-body and core strength. It also increases your cardiovascular levels.
4. Keep you accountable. If you're using a pedomter to track your steps, you automatically have an accountability partner, i.e. your device. If you have a competitive spirit, you can also keep yourself motivated by challenging yourself to step more than you did the past week or month, etc.
5. Find the time. By just tracking your steps, you don't have to set aside a chunk of time to reach your fitness goal. Taking steps is a non-thinking, non-invasive activity that we perform on a daily basis.
What Tracking Steps Will Not Help You Do
Walking 10,000 steps a day will not replace your fitness regimen. Simply put, it should be one of the components to a healthy lifestyle. In addition to remaining active throughout your day, you should also be strength training and fitting in 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise, according to the American Heart Association. [Tweet this fact!] The problem with just shooting for a step goal every day is that the number of steps does not track the level of intensity. You should also be including flexibility and mobility work for a stronger, healthier body.
Also, like all other fitness programs, shooting for a certain step goal does not replace maintaining a healthy lifestyle otherwise. Here I'm speaking about proper hydration, sleep, and keeping a healthy diet. If weight loss is your goal, your diet is still where 80 percent of the magic happens.
Before lacing up your sneakers and setting that 10,000 steps-a-day goal, I recommend that you start off slow. Add anywhere from an additional 200 to 2,000 steps above what you would have normally taken throughout your daily routine. Then gradually work your way up as you find new ways to clock more steps throughout your daily routine.