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The Japanese first started using the 10,000 steps a day number, as part of a marketing campaign! (to help sell pedometers). Since that initial campaign however, medical authorities around the world have agreed that 10,000 is a healthy number for which to aim. The American Heart Association uses the 10,000 steps metric as a guideline to follow for improving health and decreasing risk of heart disease, the number one killer of men and women in America.
10,000 steps a day is a rough equivalent to the Surgeon General’s recommendation to accumulate 30 minutes of activity most days of the week. It should be enough to reduce your risk for disease and help you lead a longer, healthier life. The benefits are many: lower BMI, reduced waist size, increased energy, and less risk for Type II diabetes and heart disease. In fact, a recent study of the 10,000 steps a day method reported conclusive health benefits.
10,000 steps daily is approximately 5 miles. Unless you have a very active lifestyle or profession, you probably don’t reach 10,000 steps on a given day without putting some effort into your activity. This could be a lifestyle change such as walking to work, or the addition of an exercise routine to your day.
Another reason to do it? For most people, it’s convenient, free and simple to do with just a little change to your daily routine. Working towards a 10,000 step a day goal? Good for you! Get motivated with one of Fitbit groups, like 5k-6k steps a day. Already mastered 10,000? Maybe Active Maintainers is for you.
30 minutes of exercise
Certainly, a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most, if not all, days of the week is an excellent goal. Numerous studies have found that as little as a half hour daily of aerobic exercise like walking can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other cardiovascular-related illnesses.
“But 30 minutes of exercise a day is likely not enough for someone who has a lot of weight to lose,” points out Scott Danberg, MS, exercise physiologist and Director of Fitness at the Pritikin Longevity Center + Spa in Miami, Florida.
The most comprehensive study1 of successful long-term weight loss ever conducted, the National Weight Control Registry, found that the vast majority of its more than 4,000 members averaged about 60 minutes of moderate exercise, like brisk walking, every day. (Brisk, as President Harry Truman so deftly defined it, is “walking as if you have somewhere to go.”)
The Registry participants in this study had lost, on average, 72 pounds, and at follow-up more than five years later had kept it off. They burned, on average, about 2,800 calories a week. If you exercise seven days a week, that’s 400 calories (about four miles) each day, or, for most people, about 60 minutes of brisk walking.
So, in addition to your formal exercise, say, your 30 minutes on the treadmill or other aerobic equipment in the morning, put on a pedometer and incorporate more steps into your regular daily activities. Formal exercise steps plus steps throughout the day, adding up to a grand total of 10,000 steps, could very likely get you to the 60 minutes of daily exercise that has proven so successful for significant, long-lasting weight loss.
Too much sitting
The other critical point is that the more you’re up and moving, the less you’re sitting. That’s important because too much sitting, science is increasingly finding, is bad news for our health and longevity even if we’re getting regular exercise, like a 30-minute aerobic workout, each day.
In one study2 that followed more than 123,000 U.S. men and women for 14 years, researchers found (not surprisingly) that those who exercised more had a lower risk of death than those who exercised less, but when the scientists looked just at the group of people who did the most exercise, those who sat for six or more hours a day suffered a significantly higher risk of premature death than those who sat for fewer than three hours daily.