The benefits of regular walking are numerous. The ‘US Department of Health and Human Services’ suggests at least 140 minutes of weekly exercise, which includes walking. It has been shown that walking regularly can help to reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and even depression.
But how much should we walk? There is a trend in recent times of setting a target of 10,000 steps, roughly equal to five miles. But is it optimal for everyone?
The short answer is no. How many steps you need to take will depend on the individual’s fitness and requirement. While 10,000 steps is a good goal, it is not suitable for every patient.
Dr Elroy Aguiar of the University of Massachusett argued that the media had popularised 10000 steps with a limited amount of scientific backing, so much so that even CDC suggested the same.
Most experts, on the other hand, agree that 7,500 steps on average are enough. University of Massachusetts epidemiologist Amanda Paluch and her team conducted a study. It showed that at least 7000 steps per day could reduce premature death risk by almost 70 per cent.
There are many studies analysing the number of steps optimum for health. One research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that women had a 41 per cent less mortality risk with 4,400 steps/day, compared to the control group of 2,700 steps.
The benefits increase up until 7,500 steps, and then there is no further impact on mortality even though other benefits may be enhanced. Another study published in the same magazine, conducted on people over 60, demonstrated that walking 6000-9000 steps is enough to decrease the risk of heart problems. So, it may not be useful to set a target of 10,000 steps for everyone simply.
If we combine walking with other exercises in an appropriate manner, it will give the best results. It is important to set an achievable goal. If your physical condition does not permit 10,000 steps, look for something suitable. However, it should be remembered that taking less than 5000 steps would be considered sedentary, so we should aim slightly higher and strive to achieve that gradually. Match it with the proper types of exercises, and that will serve the purpose.
Walking 10,000 steps per day is okay as long as we are able to do that. But it should not be highlighted as the optimum or ideal steps count because there is no such thing.
Some people can walk more than 10,000 steps, which is perfectly fine for them. Some people may only need a few steps, so they should find out their own optimum.
As a general rule, to reduce weight and minimise the risks of cardiovascular problems, we may look at somewhere between 6000-8000 steps per day. We don’t need to do that immediately; rather, we should start slowly and gradually increase the number of steps until we hit the target.