Is 10,000 steps a realistic goal or pie in the sky? 38



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A few years ago someone gave me a pedometer and challenged me to do the famous 10,000-steps-a-day challenge that some fitness gurus spruik.

I was a little younger and thought it would be a shoe-in.

How wrong I was. Even going to the gym every day, walking my dogs and doing the housework got me nowhere near the 10,000 mark. I was lucky to reach 7,000 steps.

On the days I caught the train into Sydney from the Central Coast where I lived it was even worse. Even if I went for a walk at lunchtime, I was lucky to do a few thousand. 10,000 steps, I discovered, was actually around eight kilometres, so one heck of a lot of walking.

I was initially really disappointed, and went to have a chat with one of the personal trainers at the gym about it.

She told me the 10,000 steps challenge was something made up by a marketing guru way back in the 1960s and the challenge bore no resemblance to what was reasonable for an older person, particularly if you were starting to exercise after a long lay-off or had injuries you had to work around.

“Okay, what is reasonable?” I asked her.

Her suggestion was to work out what I could reasonably achieve on a good day and to try and achieve that magic figure on more days and gradually increase my goal as my fitness increased.

Her advice was backed up by my online research, including comments made by a female doctor who had tried the 10,000-step challenge.

Her research showed that workplace walking challenges are known for attracting the already physically active employees and sidelining the ones who find 10k steps too lofty a goal.

“There is a silver lining, though. When people are given pedometers to measure their steps and given a goal to reach, like 10,000 steps, they do increase their walking,” she said. “One study showed an increase of about 2000 steps or a mile. And this improvement was associated with a statistically significant, although small, loss in weight and decrease in blood pressure.

“What’s key to note is that the 2000-step increase didn’t necessarily get people to the 10,000-step goal. But it did get them health benefits. That extra walking can counter the ill effects of sitting at a desk all day. And increasing physical activity is good for lots of illnesses: obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, prediabetes/diabetes, osteoporosis and depression.”

I took this advice, made my goals a little more realistic, and by the end of a few months was walking a lot more every day than before I started the challenge. The key, I found, was setting myself achievable goals and to forgive myself if I occasionally didn’t quite make it because of time constraints or because an old injury was flaring up. This meant I didn’t just give up altogether in frustration and get stuck into that packet of TimTams. Instead, I learned to give myself a pat on the back for what I did achieve and try and build on it.

Do you walk to keep fit? And, if so, how long and far do you walk and how often?

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. All we do by walking is wear our our knees you don,t notice when you are young but once you reach your 50,s and 60,s your joints are worn out…Chinese to the right exercises Tai Chi …slow and gentle.

  2. I do 10000 steps most days without really trying…..I do have 1 bionic knee…..due to my athletic days as a teenager! I am in my late 60’s.

  3. I walk for an hour on my treadmill on elevation 10. I do 4k with a 10 kilo pack. Adding weight is good for cardio, core strength and bone density. I try and do this 5 days a week.

  4. I still work and I do not have a car. My walking is:
    3ks to the train in the morning .1k from bus stop home.
    Anywhere from 2 to 5 ks walking at work, including 12 steps which I use to access stock minimum 20 times per day
    Twice per week 6k round trip shopping with granny trolley.
    I usually do my 10, 000 steps by 11 o’clock week days. Please do not tell me how healthy I must be. I am so tired. I leave home at 6 30am and get home at 7.20pm. Yes it’s achievable.

  5. Started doing this around 15 years ago as a work challenge, still do the 10,000. best incentive to get out walking ever.

    1 REPLY
  6. I have just taken up walking 5 klms and also 5 on the bike most days. I am lucky enough to have an awesome secure park to walk in and going from one end to the other gives me the distance. Got back into this so I can fit back into my size 10 and also to give my lungs a chance after 50 years of smoking. I quit 2 years ago and if this exercise doesn’t kill me it will get me fit.

    2 REPLY
    • Well done giving up the cigarettes. I’ve never smoked (asthma) but my late sister and her husband used to smoke 5 packets of cigarettes a day, they gave up 16 years ago. My sister had pancreatic cancer not lung cancer.

    • Thank you Lyn and I also have asthma hence I want to get the lungs working propwerly. I would say I smoked almost as many as your sis and her hubby.

  7. Some days I hit 10000 and more, other days I don’t, but I don’t lose sleep over not achieving the target.

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