The Magical 10,000 Steps

 

Many people have the goal of obtaining 10,000 steps per day. Have you ever wondered where that magical number of 10,000 steps came from? Interestingly, it didn’t come from science. In fact, it originated from Japan in 1965, with a company that sold pedometers. The Japanese name for this gadget translates to “the 10,000 step meter”. And thus a trend was born.

However, since collecting 10,000 daily steps became trendy, lots of research has been done to support the notion.

Here’s what we know:

One of the benefits of exercise when it comes to weight loss is that we tend to metabolize fat at a higher rate after exercise. However, prolonged inactivity, such as sitting at your desk job all day, puts you in a state of exercise resistance. This means that you don’t see the usual improvements to your metabolism or cardiovascular health that you normally see after a workout.

And this is where the magic of the 10,000 daily steps comes in. A study from the University of Texas found that people who reduced their step count for just two days saw a dramatic reduction in their ability to burn fat after their workouts.

In this study, the researchers recruited 10 active, healthy volunteers. Their average age was 26 years. Each participant went through three different trials, with a week between each trial:

  • Trial 1: two days of LOW physical activity (about 2,500 steps per day)
  • Trial 2: two days of LIMITED activity (about 5,000 steps per day)
  • Trial 3: two days of NORMAL activity (about 8,500 steps per day)

At the end of each trial, they ran for an hour on a treadmill at about two-thirds of their aerobic capacity. The morning after their run, they did a “high-fat tolerance test”. This involved drinking a high-calorie shake that was also high in fat. The volume of each shake depended on each participant’s body weight. For the average participant, they drank an 1100-calorie shake that included 94 grams of fat, 64 grams of carbs and 12 grams of protein. This would be the equivalent of a stick of butter, 16 teaspoons of sugar, and three egg whites.

For the next 6 hours, the researched measured how well the participants metabolized the fat from their shakes. Here’s what they found:

When the volunteers reduced their steps during the day, they burned much, much less fat after their run on the treadmill. Normally, a healthy, active person gets about 70% of their energy from fat and 30% from carbohydrates. In this study, when the participants got 8,500 steps, they got 80% of their energy from fat. And when they lowered their steps to 2,500, they got only 66% of their energy from fat. And this was after only two days of lowering their daily steps.

Granted, this was a very small study. But it shows us that small changes in our daily movement can have a big impact.

So how can you use this information to help you on your weight loss journey?

Well, here at Wayza Health we are all about collecting 1% wins. This means trying to make very small, sustainable changes to our nutrition and fitness. Taking even 1,000 steps in your day is better than taking none at all. When  you take a deeper dive into the research, we know that walking lowers the risk of heart attack, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. In fact, your risk of death from any of these causes drops by 6% for every 1,000 additional daily steps you take. And this levels out at those 10,000 magical steps.

Now, this doesn’t mean you have to aim for 10,000 steps every day. This many steps is typically the equivalent of 90 minutes of brisk walking, or about 5 miles. That can be a lot of you haven’t been walking daily. To put this into perspective, the average American walks about 4,800 steps per day.

Here are a few ways you can increase your daily steps, 1% at a time:

  1. If you have trouble finding time for walking, consider making a list of all the things you normally do in a chair that could be done while you’re walking. Your list could include things such as listening to podcasts or audiobooks, attending business calls (especially when you don’t have to be on camera).
  2. Are there places you normally drive to that you can realistically walk to instead? For example, could you walk to the post office, or the grocery store, or to visit a friend?
  3. You can also use walking to connect with the people you love. Taking a stroll with your partner after dinner, or have a walking date with your bestie are great, enjoyable ways to get more steps in.
  4. Walking is also a great way to solve problems and get your creative juices flowing. Next time you find yourself ruminating on a problem, put on your walking shoes and head out the door for a few steps.
  5. Finally, walking is a great mood booster. If you’re feeling down or the stress is starting to build, even 10 minutes outside in nature can improve your well-being. 

References

  1. Burton HM, Coyle EF.Daily Step Count and Postprandial Fat Metabolism. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2021 Feb 1;53(2):333–40.
  2. Kraus WE, Janz KF, Powell KE, Campbell WW, Jakicic JM, Troiano RP, et al.Daily Step Counts for Measuring Physical Activity Exposure and Its Relation to Health. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2019 Jun;51(6):1206–12.
  3. Lee I-M, Shiroma EJ, Kamada M, Bassett DR, Matthews CE, Buring JE.Association of Step Volume and Intensity With All-Cause Mortality in Older Women. JAMA Intern Med. 2019 May 29.
  4. Hoeger WWK, Bond L, Ransdell L, Shimon JM, Merugu S.One-mile Step Count at Walking And Running Speeds. ACSMs Health Fit. 2008;12(1):14.
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