Wow! Your smartphone congratulates you, gives a new badge, throws glittery papers over your figurine and motivates you to push further hard to achieve your health goals! Yes, its nothing but the fitness trackers and health apps playing their role in improving your wellness and weight loss. People often play number games with their body and health. Ideal body proportion for women is defined to be 36-24-36 inches, women love their body weight to remain well below the desired weight and people aim at completing 10,000 steps a day. Though the number 10,000 seems wholesome, complete and believable how good is it when it comes to achievability, practicality and efficiency? The number was not something that’s been established by the World Health Organization (WHO) or the American Heart Association (AHA) but was the brainchild of a successful Japanese marketing campaign in the mid-1960s. This campaign did not have any scientific explanation behind its promotion but simply wanted to promote their pedometer named ‘manpo-kei’ which literally translates to 10,000-step meter. Surprisingly, WHO, AHA and other reputed health organizations started following the 10,000 steps plan but there have been doubts and questions lingering on their efficiency and correctness.
Walking: The Most Underrated Exercise Form
Walking still exists as the best physical activity that can be performed by anyone residing in any corner of the world. Still, its effectiveness and usefulness in our health remains underrated and underrecognized. Even for someone who has remained sedentary all his/her life its easy to start walking as this is an activity that we are used to performing while doing our day-to-day chores. An activity that can be performed anytime of the day, walking helps in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease by 31% and cuts down the risk of death by 32%. But all these benefits only when the duration and intensity are on par with the recommended levels which is not 10000 steps day but doing moderate-intensity exercise for 30 minutes at least five times a week or doing high-intensity exercises for at least 20 minutes thrice a week. Just as how curious we are, a group of curious researchers investigated the how many steps were needed to gain health benefits.
They recruited almost 17,000 women aged between 62 and 101 years who were provided with a fitness tracker measuring their step count, speed and distance covered during all times of the day except while sleeping or performing water-based exercises such as swimming. The women were asked for their diet, lifestyle and medical history for the 4-year follow-up period. During this period almost 500 women died and results showed that women who took more than 4,400 steps daily were at a 41% lower risk of death and the risk further declined until about 7,500 steps after which the effect of the step’s effect wore off. A surprise element here in this study is that it did not consider the pace of the activity but only the duration which contradicts previous study results that show that walking pace is indeed linked to longevity. While the results might be applicable on men of the same age, we cannot predict about individuals of other age groups. Still, most people who don’t lead a sedentary life walk at least 4,000-5,000 steps a day and its still good. There are many studies comparing the health effects of people who walked 5000 steps a day to those of people who walked 10000 steps a day by measuring calories burned, BP and glucose levels. Indeed 10000 steps is going to give us better results and we don’t know for sure until we compare it with other numbers such as 7000 steps or 11000 steps.
But if you compare the recommended daily activity levels that amounts to 30 minutes of activity five days a week the total number of steps taken each day comes close to 7500 and maybe that’s the number all of us must aim for! This is far better than the recommended 10000 steps a day as we have no clue about the intensity with which these steps must be walked which does play a crucial role in deciding upon the overall health of an individual. It is suggested that we walk a minimum of 100 steps per minute (https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/sep/03/watch-your-step-why-the-10000-daily-goal-is-built-on-bad-science) if we want to reap any benefits from our exercise routine and this is not a big deal considering the fact that it’s the kind of pace someone follows when he/she heartfully hopes to stay healthy and lead an active lifestyle.
Keep it Simple
Mathematical formulas scare the hell out of some individuals and numbers confuse many. Likewise, the number 10000 seems unattainable and grueling for some individuals. But keep in mind that we do have evidences pointing to the fact that every single step you take brings you closer to good health. Even 2 minutes of exercising adds value to your overall health and studies do show this with evidence. Nutritionists, dietitians and health experts suggest various ways to stay health and this includes taking the stairs whenever possible, parking the car further away from the parking lot or walking while talking over the phone-all these might be trivial ways to stay active but they do add to your good health when practiced over a long period of time. So, while you do have to set definite targets and aim for different ways to achieve these targets don’t let go of simple and doable activities to keep you going. Involve in gardening, take a bus to office, walk for a kilometer before taking a bus from your second-nearest bus stop or do some stretches during your coffee and lunch breaks. Maybe you can even squeeze in a 10-minute walk after your lunch to clear your mind off the sleep and also get some exercise in between.
Fitness trackers could have brainwashed you with their 10,000-steps-a-day target but I hope that we can at least walk close to 7500 steps that fulfills our 150 min/week of physical activity requirements.
You Might Not Need the 10,000 Steps a Day Your Fitness Tracker is Telling you to Take: https://time.com/5597557/do-you-need-10000-steps-a-day/
10,000 Step a Day? Maybe you Don’t Need Them All: https://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-2019/7500-steps-daily-is-enough.html?intcmp=HEA-HL-FEED
Walking: Your Steps to Health: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/walking-your-steps-to-health
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.