Walking is a very beneficial physical activity for the heart and muscle health. It often only takes a few minutes of walking every day to stay in shape, but also to lose calories. However, with our busy lifestyles and schedules, it is often difficult for us to walk enough during the day. How many steps a day should we take to lose weight?
The benefits of walking
The risks of an inactive and sedentary lifestyle are bad for your health. Scientists recommend regular physical activity of moderate or intensive intensity of about 30 minutes a day. And walking is probably one of the easiest physical activities to implement, but also one of the most effective.
Walking can free your mind and reduce the likelihood of suffering from cardiovascular problems. A daily walk of 30 minutes will stimulate your brain and improve your cardiorespiratory endurance, i.e. increase your lung resistance. Walking eliminates the risk of developing breast and colon cancer.
Finally, you can walk to lose weight. Above all, it can be useful to know the ideal number of steps to take in a day.
Walking 10,000 steps a day: where did this idea come from?
With the boom of connected watches and the return of pedometers, many gadgets and applications now offer you the opportunity to count the number of steps you take per day to lose weight and show you how many calories you’ve lost. Most of these connected objects are set to a target of 10,000 steps per day.
But where did the 10,000 figure come from?
That’s a long way off. As a prelude to the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, the Japanese at the time invented a pedometer called the manpo-kei, which translates as a “10,000 step measurement”. The advertising campaign conducted around this gadget emphasized the benefits of walking 10,000 steps a day. Since then, this number of steps has become a walking record to be reached all over the world.
10,000 steps per day are equivalent to an average of 7.5 kilometers to be covered per day, from the first step from waking up to bedtime. The NHS, which is the public health system in the United Kingdom, and the CDC, which represents its U.S. counterpart, have set a 10,000-step milestone at a benchmark of 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week or 75 minutes of high-intensity physical activity.
What are the health benefits of those 10,000 steps?
Objective monitoring of our physical performance using pedometers or accelerometers provides a valuable opportunity to measure physical activity in terms of several steps per day. Based on steps and guidelines, this new sporting trend has captured the public’s interest through its effectiveness.
According to an American study, it is recommended to take between 7,000 and 8,000 steps a day to keep in excellent shape (1). But in the case of steps per day to lose weight (a weight loss goal) reaching at least 10,000 steps per day over a prolonged period would be ideal to achieve your goals. That is, between 30 and 60 minutes of physical activity.
Another scientific study has been conducted by the Department of Physical Therapy of the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Thailand on the subject (2). It concerns the effects of 10,000 steps per day on the physical and mental health of several overweight participants.
This study showed that an accumulation of these 10,000 steps per day resulted in a significant decrease in the negative effects of obesity on the volunteers’ mood and physical health. Similarly, significant improvements were noted in the subjects’ vigor and determination to continue walking to lose weight.
At high frequency, walking forces the metabolism to burn calories and convert carbohydrates, proteins, and fats into energy rather than fat reserves. It activates blood circulation and helps to fight against cholesterol. Maintaining this rhythm is a key factor in optimizing your heart rate and lowering the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes by 60-70%.
Okay, but do we have to take that 10,000-step target literally? What about reality?
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Number of steps per day to lose weight: What is it for?
Around the world, public health organizations give recommendations in terms of physical activity. To do this, they indicate the standards needed to be healthy. These recommendations are usually given in terms of frequency, duration, and intensity of physical activity. Also, they are based on decades of scientific research (3).
Evidence shows that there is a close correlation between pace and intensity of steps: 100 steps per minute is an indicative value for walking at moderate intensity.
In other words, if you want to lose weight, the intensity and pace of your physical activity will play a significant role in your weight loss. You will burn more or fewer calories depending on how fast you walk. We consider that from 120 steps per minute, walking is considered intensive.
To increase your number of steps per day to lose weight:
- prefer steps over elevators,
- for small errands, go on foot or by bike rather than by car,
- park your car further away from your office or get off a bus or metro stop earlier
- go for a 5-10 min walk during your lunch break
- take a little walk in the evening after dinner
It is also helpful to monitor your eating habits and the number of calories you eat. This will help you reach your goal of losing excess weight. So remember to eat fruit and vegetables, protein and the right fat every day. And don’t forget to drink plenty of water.
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Sources and references
(1) Tudor-Locke, L. Craig, P. Thyfault, and C. Spenc (2012), A step-defined sedentary lifestyle index: <5000 steps/day, Applied physiology, nutrition and metabolism, 38(2): 100-114, https://doi.org/10.1139/apnm-2012-0235(2)
Yuenyongchaiwat, Kornanong. (2016). Effects of 10,000 steps a day on physical and mental health in overweight participants in a community setting: a preliminary study. Brazilian Journal of Physical Therapy, 20(4), 367-373. Epub June 16, 2016.
https://dx.doi.org/10.1590/bjpt-rbf.2014.0160(3) Tudor-Locke, L Craig, J Brown, A Clemes, De Cocker, Giles-Corti, Hatano, Inoue, M M Matsudo, Mutrie, Oppert, A Rowe, D Schmidt, M Schofield, C Spence, J Teixeira, A Tully, N Blair (2011
How many steps/day are enough? for adults, International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, https://doi.org/10.1186/1479-5868-8-79