Ask anyone working at our Auckland physio clinic and they’ll tell you the quality of your exercise is often as important as the quantity. This is certainly true of walking. While you might feel guilty about not reaching that magical 10, 000 step limit every day, we say it doesn’t always matter. 5,000 great steps are better than 10,000 ordinary ones! Besides this 10,000 step limit is not really magical – it’s more a marketing ploy than anything.
Before the Tokyo Olympics of 1964, a Japanese company developed its first wearable pedometer. They called it “manpo-kei” which roughly translates to the “10,000 step meter” It was a nice round number and easily memorable but with no scientific backing. For all that, the “10,000 steps” motto has stuck with us ever since.
We’re certainly not telling you that you should stop doing your 10,000 steps every day. But we are saying that you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t hit that mark. It’s been suggested that over 6,000 steps are cardio-protective and that a goal of 7,500 steps a day is a pretty decent target if you want to stay fit and healthy. Of course, if you’re doing 10,000 steps or more each day, keep going. But no matter how many steps you do, the focus should be on the quality of your walk.
A short and brisk walk of 6,000 steps is probably better for you than a longer 10,000 step stroll through the park where you stop and smell the roses every few hundred metres. But for exercise sake, you need to aim for consistent intensity in your walking. It has to be fast enough to get your heart rate up, but you should still be able to hold a conversation with your walking partner should you have one.
Of course, we’re in the business of keeping people moving and we believe you should take every opportunity to get up and get active. This will lower your risk of heart disease, improve your mood, improve the clarity of your thoughts, reduce stress and boost your energy. You should also try and get on your feet as often as you can, even if you are not walking. If you are stuck at a desk all day, stand up and stretch every hour or, better still, ask the boss for a stand-up work station. But always remember, that how well you exercise can be just as important as how much you do.