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Ten Thousand Steps
By: Joann Bally CSCS
The public health ďwalking is good for youĒ message didnít catch on right away. If the problem was that it needed a slogan, that was solved with ď10,000 steps a day for health.Ē The 10,000 steps message was devised and spread by Prof. Yoshiro Hatano of the Kyushu University of Health and Welfare. It became very popular in Japan, and is spreading to other countries.
How do we get our 10,000 steps? Left, right is two steps. The average is about 2000 steps per mile. So the goal is to walk 5 miles a day. Does this mean you have to go out for a 5-mile walk every day? No. But if you do a 5-mile walk, you donít have to worry about doing anything else that day to meet the goal. Usually you will be counting all the steps you take in the course of a day, no matter what you are doing. So this program is really to encourage overall activity, rather than formal exercise. This is less daunting and more acceptable to many people, once they get over the large-number shock. The large number is, however, more attractive because 10,000 of anything is a lot, and an accomplishment when itís something you do.
There is nothing magic about 10,000 steps. Itís just a convenient number. There are lots of studies that show people who do more walking are more healthy, and at least one notes that those who averaged at least 10,000 steps had normal body mass index as well as better body composition. The idea of counting steps is a boon to researchers, who have something more accurate to work with than peopleís recollection of how much they walk.
If you want to, you can count the number of steps on a given route, and then just repeat that. Most people (as well as the researchers) use a device called a pedometer. Some of these have other functions as well, but they all count steps. The pedometer is a small, inexpensive device that you wear, usually, on your waistband. In fact, the use of a pedometer is one of the things that makes step counting, or 10,000 steps so popular. In Japan, where they love gadgets, itís estimated that they average 1.6 pedometers per household. I love gadgets too.
You can see how many steps you take in an average day, when you donít go out specifically to go walking. If Iíve been working inside, I will go out and walk for a mile or 2 just to bring up my total. Itís extra exercise, and makes me feel better, too.
Some criticize the 10,000 steps goal because it is so far beyond what most people do that it could be discouraging. No problem. Just set individual goals, and new ones when those are met. But for those of us who walk for fitness, 10,000 is a realistic goal, even if it doesnít account for walking speed. Sufficient distance can also improve fitness. Professor Hatano has logged 57 million steps on his pedometer over the past 12 years, equal to 40,000 km, or once around the world. I think heís pretty fit.
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