The magic of walking 10,000 steps

by Tim Griffiths

Are you struggling with your new years resolution to do more exercise? If you need motivation, join more than 20 million people worldwide who are using fitbit or similar devices to count their steps.

These devices really do help you achieve your goals. In our family we all have one including our parents. It’s been amazing to see the transformation in exercise habits. Time that was previously spent watching TV has been substituted by popping out for a short walk to get an extra 2,000 steps, on one occasion dad even did laps around the house. The best thing about these devices is that they are fun!!!

So what is a Fitbit? It’s a watch that measures steps and syncs to your phone via an app. You can set a daily step goal (default is 10,000 steps) and check either your watch or your phone to see how you’re tracking. It also stores historical data so you can go back in time and see how often you achieved your goal in a week or a month.

10,000 steps daily equates to approximately 8 kilometres. 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. Or 10,000 steps might be a bit of stretch at this stage you could aim for 6,000 or 7,000.

What’s the benefits of walking 10,000 steps per day? Well firstly its free, you feel great and it has a number of health related benefits:

1.  Walking can improve back pain

If your back hurts the cure may be as simple as putting one foot in front of the other. Walking can lessen pain, hasten healing, boost strength, increase flexibility, and, in the long run, prevent recurrences. Need proof? A 2004 study in The Spine Journal showed that a single session of an exercise such as walking can reduce low back pain 10 to 50 percent. And a 1993 study found that just 10 minutes of treadmill walking led to a significant reduction in back pain.

2.  Walking improves circulation.

It also wards off heart disease, brings up the heart rate, lowers blood pressure and strengthens the heart. Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Tennessee found that post-menopausal women who walked just one to two miles a day lowered blood pressure by nearly 11 points in 24 weeks. Women who walked 30 minutes a day reduced their risk of stroke by 20-40% when they stepped up the pace, according to researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

3.  Walking leads to a longer life.

Research out of the University of Michigan Medical School and the Veterans Administration Ann Arbor Healthcare System says those who exercise regularly in their fifties and sixties are 35% less likely to die over the next eight years than their non-walking counterparts. That number shoots up to 45% less likely for those who have underlying health conditions.

4. Walking can lead to weight loss.

A brisk 30-minute walk burns 200 calories. Over time, calories burned can lead to pounds dropped.

5. Walking strengthens muscles.

It tones your leg and abdominal muscles – and even arm muscles if you pump them as you walk. This increases your range of motion, shifting the pressure and weight from your joints and muscles – which are meant to handle weight – helping to lessen arthritis pain

6. Walking improves sleep

A study from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle found that women, ages 50 to 75, who took one-hour morning walks, were more likely to relieve insomnia than women who didn’t walk.