Column #360 July 29, 2022
How far will 10,000 steps take you? If the length of your step is 2.5 feet (30 inches), then 10,000 steps will cover 25,000 feet. A mile is 5,280 feet, therefore 25,000 feet is 4.73 miles. Is that the distance we need to walk daily to stay healthy?
Harvard Medical School has a book out titled “Walking for Health.” It covers nearly all the bases for walking from dealing with medical conditions, warmups, seasonal changes, walking conditions, and more.1
It points out the many powerful health benefits simple walking addresses when done correctly. They include losing weight, lowering blood pressure, boosting your memory, and reducing the odds for heart disease, diabetes, cancer. Harvard Medical literally calls walking the most perfect exercise.
I know that when you visit a doctor these days, most of them will strongly suggest that you take walks. When referring to walking, Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it’s “the closest thing we have to a wonder drug.” Additional upsides are that it’s free, doesn’t require equipment, and has practically no negative side effects.
“How far or how many steps?” is every walker’s question. “Walking for Health” suggests that 2.5 hours a week (21 minutes per day) cuts the risk of heart disease by 30%. It also reduces stress and improves your sleep. There’s also some social benefits gained by getting out and meeting fellow walkers along with improving one’s mood.
But what about the need to take 10,000 steps we’ve heard so much about? Where did it originate? It turns out it came from a 1960's Japanese marketing campaign. A company that made an early pedometer called theirs “Manpo-Kei.” In Japanese, “man” means 10,000, “po” means steps, and “kei” means meter. So it wasn’t a scientifically derived workout number. It was a simple-to-remember goal dreamed up by Dr Yoshiro Hatano, a young academic at Kyushu University of Health and Welfare. He arbitrarily set that goal in order to persuade Japanese citizens to get more active than slothful Americans.
In his post titled “Forget Walking 10,000 Steps a Day,” Michael Mosley explains how he addressed the question. He got together with Professor Rob Copeland from Sheffield Hallam University. They put together a small group of volunteers and split them into two groups. One was told to walk 10,000 steps a day and the other group was to walk three sessions of “Active 10"—which totaled 30 minutes of brisk walking. Assuming brisk walking is about 100 steps per minute, that would be about 3,000 steps per day or 1.42 miles.2
The results of the experiment was that only 66% of the 10,000-step-per-day participants could master the goal—and they struggled to do that. But the Active 10 participants found it quite easy to hit their goals and they spent more time out of breath and with a higher heart rate. Copeland analyzed the data generated by the tracking monitors and it indicated the Active 10 group actually did 30% more “moderate to vigorous physical activity” than the 10,000-step group. The findings were very clear—the Active 10 protocol resulted in a healthier workout.3
I discovered that when touring the Czech Republic and Vienna, Austria, with Dr. Michael Šust and his family and friends as they gave concert performances, one does a LOT of walking. In my second day in Prague I walked 19,031 steps. Most days averaged 7,000 steps. The return flight, which departed Prague with a plane change in New York at JFK, came just shy of 10,000 steps by the time we were loaded in the car back in Fort Lauderdale. Yes, even flying involves a tremendous amount of walking with carry-on luggage and standing in line.4
As for Delta Airlines, it did a fine job of being on time with our international flights. No luggage was lost, no fights were missed. If it wasn’t for having to deal with Customs and Security Checks, flying would have been a breeze with exercise combined.5
To your health.
Ted Slanker has been reporting on the fundamentals of nutritional research in publications, television and radio appearances, and at conferences since 1999. He condenses complex studies into the basics required for health and well-being. His eBook, The Real Diet of Man, is available online.
Don’t miss these links for additional reading:
1. Walking for Health by Harvard Medical School
2. Michael Mosley: “Forget Walking 10,000 Steps a Day" by Michael Mosley from the BBC
3. Active 10—A Simple Way to Build Exercise into Your Life from Healthy Surrey
4. Visiting the Czech Republic by Ted Slanker
5. Global Air Travel Logjam Stumps Airlines, Disrupts Countless Summer Travel Plans by Janice Hisle from The Epoch Times