6 Reasons to Aim for 10,000 Steps a Day
We all know exercise is essential, but taking on a new exercise plan can be daunting. Do you need to learn complicated rules and new equipment? Understand the proper form? Do you need special gear?
One of the simplest forms of exercise that can benefit anyone—from beginners to athletes—is walking! Walking only requires a pair of sneakers. This accessible form of exercise is fun and a great way to get outdoors and take control of your health. Aiming for the recommended 10,000 steps a day is a good goal to start.
A goal of walking 10,000 steps a day requires effort. You will need to plan time to take walks and find ways to add walks into your daily routine. But getting in 10,000 steps a day will ensure you see results and payoffs for your fitness endeavors.
Before you undertake any fitness plan, meet with your doctor to ensure you’re healthy enough for physical activity. If you’re experiencing pain in your knees, hips, or are recovering from an injury, the Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin is here to help. Our physicians, physical therapists, and staff will help you get on your feet and step your way to better health! Contact us to get started, so you can reap these 6 great benefits of walking 10,000 steps a day.
1. Walking Boosts Energy & Mood
We could all use a little more energy and a little less stress in our lives. Studies show walking can have a mood-boosting effect that can last long after we kick off our sneakers. This elevated mood helps us relax, clear our minds, and cope with stress.
To get the most benefit, walk at a brisk pace (between 3-4 mph for most adults). Get your heart rate up, and your body will release feel-good endorphins to help you keep stress levels at bay. At a 3-mph pace, you’re walking around 100 steps per minute. Use your phone, a pedometer, or a fitness tracking device to help you set your pace and track your progress.
2. 10,000 Steps a Day Gives You a Sense of Achievement
A fitness goal, like aiming for 10,000 steps a day, gives you a clear purpose—something to work towards. When you hit your target, you’ll feel a sense of achievement, satisfaction, and confidence. Any goal (fitness or otherwise) can provide these benefits, but exercise goals are often easy to track.
Goal-achievers advise that good goals should be SMART—Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Bound. A goal of walking 10,000 steps a day hits all of the criteria by being easily tracked and achievable for most healthy adults. Will it take effort? Yes! But all the little actions add up quickly. Park your car far from your destination, take the dog for another spin around the block, choose the stairs over the elevator, and you’ll be surprised at how fast you hit your goal.
3. Walking Is Good for Your Heart
Walking is a cardiovascular exercise—meaning it’s good for your heart. Walking gets your heart beating faster; it helps lower your blood pressure, and can even promote healthier cholesterol levels. Some researchers have found walking to be as effective as jogging and other brisk exercises when it comes to cardiovascular health.
To get the most benefit, aim for 15-20 minutes of cardio exercise per day. If you’re aiming for 10,000 steps a day, take a fast-paced, vigorous walk. Moderate-to-vigorous exercise means it’s hard to talk in long sentences; you should be breathing heavily, but not totally out of breath.
4. Walking Builds Stronger Muscles
Think walking seems too easy to build muscle? Think again! You can build strong muscles and bones by merely taking regular walks. Muscle increases in size when fibers break down and then heal, as we typically see in bodybuilding and weightlifting activities. But walking also helps tone and strengthen lean muscle tissue.
While you won’t see the fast bulk and muscle gains from walking that you’d see in say, a cross-fit class, you will see tightening, lifting, and toning. Don’t skip out on hills and hikes! Walking uphill is great for building up your muscles and making your body work.
5. Walking has Low Impact on Your Joints
Low-impact exercises like biking, swimming, and walking are easier on your joints. People with arthritis and other joint problems can benefit significantly from simple low impact aerobic exercise. Moving helps to increase blood flow, strengthen bones, and improve balance.
It’s a common concern that walking and other activities can damage your joints, but studies have shown that low-impact exercise isn’t harmful. In an Australian study, some impact exercise, like jogging, improved the strength of the subjects’ knees. Of course, if you have any joint health concerns, work with a physician to determine the right course of exercise for your body. Walking shouldn’t be painful!
6. Staying Fit Reduces Stress on Your Body
Another benefit of getting 10,000 steps a day is the overall impact on your fitness. Walking can help people lose weight and maintain a healthy BMI. In an arthritis study, researchers found that 1 pound of weight loss reduced 4 pounds of pressure on the subjects’ knees. Even a 5-10-pound weight loss can ease discomfort and strain.
Walking also lowers rates of other health issues like diabetes by helping to stabilize blood sugar. Exercise after eating can help you keep glucose levels steady. Moreover, walking is often an accessible, safe form of exercise, no matter your health and fitness level. If you’re trying to get into better shape, walking is a powerful first step.
You should be able to start a walking regimen pain-free. If you are experiencing any concerns about your orthopedic health, we are happy to help. Please contact us today to meet with an expert physician who can assess your concerns and help you step up your routine to better health. The benefits of walking are well-worth the effort!