Due to the current “Stay at Home” orders from Governor Murphy caused by the COVID-19 “Corona virus” pandemic, the public has become more isolated and has been taking many new precautions in order to control the spread and “lower the curve”. This leaves many of us changing our daily routines and habits, including our physical activity level and the amount of walking we do.
Almost every week, I hear friends, family, patients and clients say “Gotta make sure I get my 10,000 steps in!” But how exactly are we supposed to do that when our daily activities have changed? And, more importantly, should 10,000 steps be the right goal for you?
Let’s investigate: How did this 10,000 step goal even come about? The answer is actually from a Japanese company in the 1960s. They named one of their products the 10,000 step pedometer! And since then, the fitness community has latched onto it as a standard. Who’d have thought, right?
Now, there have been studies that show the benefits of walking 10,000 steps a day, including weight loss, reduced body fat percentages, and improved lean body mass. But it’s easy to forget that the participants in these studies aren’t necessarily applicable to everyone, including different ages, co-existing medical conditions, and prior injury/surgeries. These are all very important considerations to take into account when determining the right dosage of exercise for each of us individually.
The Department of Health and Human Services recommends performing at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderately intensive physical aerobic activity per week for adults for improving health and quality of life. This can be achieved in the form of walking.
Note that they didn’t include a step goal. Rather, they included a time and an intensity. This takes into account each person’s health and functional ability. An exercise performed at a moderate intensity should follow the Talk Test rule- while exercising, you should work hard enough so that you can talk, but not able to sing. So instead of thinking about achieving a certain number of steps, change your focus to the amount of time and the intensity at which you do the activity. Listen to your own body, and know our limits.
Technology like Apple watches or FitBits are able to track some of our activity, heart rate, and the amount of steps we take. Some of these devices display the goal of 10,000 steps right there for our viewing, and even allow us to compete with friends or family with similar devices to see who has done more activity. Don’t get too focused on the number of steps. Focus on how long and how intense the activity was for you.
Track your progress over time. Utilize neighborhoods and parks when appropriate within the recommended guidelines. If your kids are home, make it a family activity inside or outside! Do laps around the house when a commercial comes on, or walk a few flights of stairs at a time. If you’re struggling to find the right amount of activity, or are limited in what you can do, ask us! We’re here to help.
Be well, and stay healthy and active!