COUNTING STEPS

How Many Steps Should You Be Doing Each Day? 

Who would have thought that counting 10,000 steps a day would be the latest craze? This ‘magic’ number is everywhere, from default recommendations provided by fitness tracker manufacturers to ‘bro science’ advice at your local gym, and even public health initiatives.

But where does this target come from? And is it: a desirable target, a bare minimum, or just another unnecessary obsession drilled into your regime?

Let’s find out! 

The brief history of 10,000 steps

With everyone buzzing about something, it’s easy to assume it has some rock-solid science to back it up.

Surprisingly (or…not?), this is not the case with 10,000 steps! In fact, the concept stems not from professors in lab coats, but from a Japanese marketing campaign from the 60s. There was a particular brand of pedometers marketed under the name of “manpo-kei”, which literally means “10,000 steps meter”. The novelty of the device and the precise target it offered resonated with the nation, and numerous walking groups have embraced the 10,000 steps mentality.

So, the step target was picked pretty much randomly. But is it necessarily a bad thing? We’re about to dig deeper, sit tight!

What does science say?

Of course, since this craze has gained momentum, there have been numerous studies attempting to find links between the number of steps a day and general health. Hitting the 10,000 steps goal can indeed help lose weight, manage hypertension and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The fundamental flaw?

So can a lesser number of steps.

Or, in fact, any type of regular physical activity.  

Wait…what?

That’s right – it doesn’t seem like there is a universal number of steps that can definitely help everyone achieve better health and fitness outcomes! It’s very likely that overall, for previously sedentary individuals hitting the ‘magical’ 10,000 steps works as it’s higher than their usual level of physical activity. By simple logic, increasing the level of physical activity is going to have a positive effect!

This is not to say that step counting doesn’t have its applications, however, for those just dabbing into health and fitness, aiming to incrementally increase daily steps provides an easy – and for many people, fun – way to stay active, improve cardiovascular health and boost their metabolism. To put it simply, in the absence of other types of structured exercise, 10,000 daily steps is a giant leap forward and can be a fabulous solution if it helps one stay consistent and start working towards better health!

However, in general, there are many alternative ways to stay active that require zero/minimal counted steps. Just to name a few:

  • Lifting weights
  • Yoga
  • Rock climbing
  • Pole fitness
  • Aerial arts
  • And much more!

As someone who climbs 9-meter silks on a regular basis, I can assure you – there are days when I hit 3 thousand steps, but I still consider myself very fit! And so does Rachel, Emma, and most of the BBR team, as well as many other amazing athletes.

So, how many steps do you need after all?

Simple: as many as you can comfortably fit into your routine without developing an obsession, whilst also staying active in a variety of ways!

Looking for something measurable to aim for? Here are the current physical activity guidelines:

  • Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day.
  • See everyday activities as a good opportunity to be active.
  • Try to find the time for some regular, vigorous exercise for extra health and fitness benefits.
  • Minimise the amount of time spent in prolonged sitting and break up long periods of sitting as often as possible.
  • Accumulate 150 to 300 minutes (2 ½ to 5 hours) of moderate physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes (1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours) of vigorous physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities, each week.
  • Do muscle strengthening activities on at least two days each week.

If you are currently doing one of the BBR programs, you are already hitting those targets! So, if you happen to accumulate more on top (steps or otherwise), great – but if not, you’re already doing great.