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We tried it: 10,000 steps

Posted on Jan. 11, 2016 ( comments)
We tried it: 10,000 steps

Ten thousand. That’s how many steps you should be taking each day, according to a widely touted notion. Although the origins of this advice are a bit murky (In fact, it appears to have originated from a 1960s Japanese marketing campaign for a pedometer), it’s so commonly accepted that you’re not likely to stop seeing this recommendation anytime soon.

It’s a big number, 10,000. The equivalent of walking almost five miles. If you have a job that involves a lot of walking, or if you have small children you need to keep up with, that might not seem like a lot. But what if you don’t have a job that keeps you active? How do you hit that 10,000 mark, if you’re stuck at a desk all day?

After getting a new phone with a built-in fitness tracking app and pedometer, I decided to find out. Here’s what I learned.

Park far away

Parking is at a premium in urban Tacoma near the Tacoma General/Mary Bridge campus, so I routinely have to park two to four blocks from my office. While not enjoyable in cold, rainy weather, it does help add a few hundred steps to my total for the day.

Get up and go

Getting up and taking a short walk around the office several times a day is also a must if you’re going to make 10,000 steps in a day. A quick, couple-minute loop down the stairs, around the office and back up again added about 350 steps to my count each time. Walking to get lunch, or to get to meetings on the other side of campus also helped. On days when I didn’t have meetings, I’d add an extra round or two of my office loop.

Cardio is key

I don’t think there’s any way I would have been able to get to 10,000 steps without some kind of exercise, even on my most walk-filled work days. My workout of choice is step aerobics or kickboxing (so 90s, I know!), and 30-40 minutes of either was usually enough to bring me close to or over my 10,000-step goal. Even with a workout, though, I did occasionally find myself watching TV while pacing the room, or doing a few circuits through my house in the evening to get the steps I needed.

Weekends are hard

Weekends were surprisingly more challenging than the work week. I did not manage to get to 10,000 steps on any weekend day during my experiment. I imagine if you are a runner — which I am not — this might not be as difficult a mark to hit. But for me, even with a workout, and a day of running errands, the best I ever managed was in the 6,000-8,000 range.

Just be active

While it did require a few changes to my routine — especially the part where I had to remember to get up and walk at work — I did learn that getting to 10,000 steps is possible, even if you are an office worker. ( I also learned that I probably need to figure out a way to be more active on the weekends.) Of course, I have the flexibility to take short breaks throughout the day, and my job doesn’t require me to monitor a phone or be available in a set location that whole time I’m there. So getting to 10,000 may be more challenging for some.

The current American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) guidelines recommend healthy adults get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity (working hard enough to break a sweat, but still able to carry on a conversation) five days per week, 20 minutes of more vigorous activity three days per week or a combination of the two. The guidelines also recommend strength training a minimum of two days each week.

So really, at the end of the day, being active is what matters, whether you’re counting steps, reps, minutes or miles. Keeping track of what you’re doing is a healthy step that lets you keep tabs on your your fitness level and decide what changes you may want to make to become more active or meet other wellness goals.


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About The Author

maura hallam Maura Hallam
Maura is our manager of content services. She writes extensively about health and wellness topics, from fitness and nutrition to medical insurance. You can reach her at [email protected].
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