Are 10,000 steps a day enough to stay healthy?

Have you ever purchased a fitness tracker like a Fitbit? Or have you tried turning on Google Fit or Apple Health to track your steps? If so, chances are you have an activity tracker suggesting you take 10,000 steps a day. Sticking to that number may not be doing you any favors for your health.

What’s good about tracking your steps is it makes you more aware of how active you actually are by logging it into an app on your smartphone. Fitness trackers worn on your wrist, like a Fitbit Alta, can be more accurate than your cellphone since it is always on your wrist. Your phone may be set down from time to time and might miss some steps throughout the day. If you’re only getting 3,000 steps a day, which is on the high-end of couch potatoes, a fitness tracker will show you just how little you’re actually moving. Being more aware might help you make lifestyle changes like watching what you eat too.

For the average person 10,000 steps per day equals about five miles of walking based on the average stride. Five miles a day satisfies the CDC’s requirement of getting 150 minutes of exercise per week to maintain optimal health. The CDC also recommends that those 150 minutes are made up of brisk walking, not simply walking. You should also be strength training twice a week in addition to the 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise. Muscle building exercises include push-ups, pull-ups, squats, bench presses, shoulder presses and the like. Adding muscle helps keep bone density strong while adding or maintaining muscle mass which helps you maintain or improve your metabolism. Staying active helps prevent type-2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, arthritis and cancer.

Depending on your fitness level and age, 10,000 may or may not be enough to keep you healthy. Just because you reach 10,000 steps a day does not give you the freedom to binge eat pizza and hamburgers. Watching what you eat is just as important at getting exercise which can help you look and feel better. If you want to lose weight, 10,000 steps most likely should be upped to a much higher number. Don’t stop at 10,000 steps.

One pound of fat is made up of 3500 calories. That means you need to have a deficit of 500 calories a day through diet and exercise in order to lose one pound a week. Keep in mind, if you have a slow metabolism you might want to consider cutting 600-800 calories a day in order to lose that weight. Don’t go overboard though. Doubling or tripling your daily steps goal can set you back if you injure yourself. Try adding 10% more steps a week. One more walk a day with your dog can improve his/her health too. Getting a little extra sunlight will also help your body synthesize vitamin D which is an essential nutrient. Not getting enough vitamin D has been associated with increased risk of heart disease, cognitive impairment, asthma in children and even cancer according to WebMD.

Once you’re up to 15,000 or 20,000 steps try changing things up with light jogging or cycling. Add in 30 push-ups, 30 sit-ups and 30 air squats to your routine. Replace potato chips with celery sticks. Make lifestyle changes.

Your body will thank you for it. If you have loved ones, so will they.

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