• Deanne Pandey

10,000 steps a day- The Fitness Myth

10,000 steps A DAY?!! What sounds like an intense, fruit-yielding challenge is not that reliable after all. Fitness challenges are a great way to motivate yourself and work on your fitness goals. It makes your transformation journey interesting and yields good results. That is exactly why it is vital to choose the right fitness challenge. In recent fitness trends, 10,000 steps a day has gained a lot of popularity. 10,000 steps everyday may seem like a challenge everyone should try out, but it is not so. And, It is important to know why?

To begin with, where did the number 10,000 come from? Is the number backed by science? Can people belonging to different genders, age groups, health conditions adhere to the same plan? Is it really a goal worth striving for, or might there be something better?

The idea originated back in 1960s, through a Japanese counting device during the Tokyo olympics. This has now taken a new shape in the form of a fad. The number- 10,000 is arbitrary and vague. There is no logical parameter to explain the figure. Up till now,  the effects on health and fitness of taking 10,000 steps a day, positive or otherwise, have not been proved clinically. For those who are chronically ill, have type 2 diabetes, or older individuals who are used to a more sedentary lifestyle, there are now concerns that making a rapid jump to 10,000 steps a day could have adverse consequences. For others, the milestone may seem intimidating and can derail intentions to increase daily physical activity. The exercise required by a 20 year old Girl might not be the same as that of a 45 year old man. Similarly, the exercise required for a person with a life-long chronicle illness may not be as intense as that of an obese person. Yet, this challenge is ignorant towards these parameters and fails to take into consideration, these obvious distinctions.

Further, One of the major problems with the 10,000-steps-a-day goal is that it doesn’t take into account the intensity of exercise. Getting out of breath and increasing your heart rate may well be even more important than the exact number of steps taken. Researchers are currently conducting studies to see whether people who take 10,000 steps a day merely by pottering around their house achieve the same health benefits as those who do so by brisk walking or playing sport. Once again, there cannot be a uniform pattern for weight loss without specifying the level of intensity of the exercise.

Although, there are two sides of every coin, this challenge has its perks too. Brisk or normal, walking is beneficial for our health irrespective. It is also cheap and inexpensive. Looking at the larger picture, it is not about how many steps, or how many hours of workout, instead it is about getting some physical activity. We know that, worldwide, physical activity levels are decreasing and obesity levels are increasing. The message isn’t getting through, but when you are trying to change behaviour, goal-setting gives people something to aim for.The challenge may not be reasonable or backed by science, but it has been instrumental in getting people out of their beds and onto their feet. Several research studies have shown it to help in reducing blood pressure and diabetes among previously sedentary populations. Yet another study stated that while it may help people to achieve current physical activity guidelines, it may also lead to an “obsessive attitude towards exercise”.

Instead of walking 10,000 steps everyday, it is better to develop a plan which suits you the best. Take into consideration, your fitness goal, the desired time duration, other restrictive health conditions (if any) and your lifestyle. Base the intensity and duration of your exercise on these parameters. Your plan may range from a 30 minute brisk walk to an hour of high intensity workouts with specific calorie burning goals.

The challenge may be instrumental in promoting an active lifestyle, but it is quite vague and may not be applicable to everyone. Thus, it is better to personalise your fitness regime and not blindly adhere to such fitness fads.

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