What we’ll cover
Is 10 000 steps a day enough exercise?
It seems that in our current social landscape we are forever looking towards the latest and greatest fitness fads to help shave off the effects of 2020s isolation period, but what about the good old, tried and true, simple goal of hitting 10,000 steps? Physiotherapist Michael Scardamaglia investigates the benefits of 10, 000 steps.
If you’re anything like me, then you would have had that eye-rolling interaction with that one friend who is constantly obsessed with ‘closing their rings’ or ‘getting that step count up to 10,000’. It is so important to them to reach 10,000 steps that they wouldn’t dare sit down with you for an Aperol (or two) on a sunny Friday night without having doggedly marched up and down the corridor to get it. But where does the fabled 10,000 steps even come from? And is it even an evidenced-based target for everyone to shoot for? I found myself asking this question as I glanced at my watch to see a measly 2936 steps, so I decided to do everyone a favour at scour the annals of all the relevant databases I could think of in the hope of restoring some faith to those who find 10,000 steps a frankly insurmountable number.
If you’ve made it this far then you’re one of the lucky ones, because I’m about to shake the foundations of the nay-sayers who swear by 10,000 steps per day with a paraphrased quote from a medical review published in 2020 which reads “There is a 15% less risk of developing health problems for every 1000 steps above 4400”. This specific research was conducted with a cohort of elderly women and in simplified terms it shows us that 4,400 steps per day is a great starting point.
I’m sure some of those step-addicts out there are now thinking “Awesome! If I just up the effort and smash out 20,000 steps for day then I’ll knock that 15% out of the park”, unfortunately this is not the case. The numbers will start to plateau after about 7,500 steps per day where any extra is yet to be proven to reduce the risk of your mortality. So again, in simplified terms start at 4,400, work yourself up to 7,500 and then the rest is just an added bonus for your personal wellbeing.
So the next time you’re feeling the pressure of the number 10,000 creeping up on you, knowing that it is something that you personally find extremely fatiguing and difficult to achieve, just remember to start small at 4,400 and slowly work up to 7,500 step per day. When you find this comfortable and you catch the bug then see where it takes you knowing you’re enjoying the challenge rather than lamenting the grind.