Ten thousand steps a day is considered a basic goal for maintaining health and doing a reasonable level of activity, but even that goal turns out to be very difficult to achieve for most people, who walk an average of 3,000-4,000 steps a day or 1.5 to two miles.
The modern Western lifestyle with many hours of sitting means that only a minority of the population really manages to complete 10,000 steps a day or more.
A 2017 study found that only 15% of the US population completes 10,000 steps a day, and most people indicated that lack of time is the barrier to reach that goal.
A new study from the University of Oregon tried to see if a "shortcut" or a simpler alternative could be found that would be easier for people to meet than the 10,000-step target, and still yield more or less the same health benefits.
The good news is that they found another way.
The study lasted about a year, and the researchers found that although the people who took more steps daily were generally healthier than those who walked less, there was another influencing factor: speed. Study participants who walked 5,000-7,000 steps a day, but at a relatively rapid pace, enjoyed health benefits similar to those who walked twice as many. These health benefits include: smaller waist circumference, lower blood pressure and lower levels of BMI and blood cholesterol.
Long steps, shorter amount of time
Walking 5,000-7,000 quick steps a day is something we’ll all find easier and more likely to put on our schedules.
Based on the findings of his research, Dr. John Shona Jr., a lecturer in kinesiology at the University of Oregon College of Public Health and one of the study's authors, said they recommend that people aim for a 3,000-step, fast-paced goal (100 steps or more per minute) daily (5k-7k/day would therefore take 50-70 minutes), or aim for a cumulative 150-minute (2.5-hour) weekly goal of fast-paced walking. Divide them according to how comfortable and fit you are, just make sure you wear comfortable shoes.
This recommendation is also consistent with the health recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which are 150 minutes/week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes/week of intense exercise.
Fast walking is one of the recommended physical activities for moderate exercise, alongside yoga, cycling (at a moderate pace) and even gardening or mowing the lawn. High-intensity activity includes things that take greater effort such as jumping rope, running, cycling at a fast pace or on a challenging track and or climbing.
Walking fast has several other benefits, too. For example, it improves cardio-pulmonary endurance and reduces the risk of a variety of diseases and health conditions such as obesity and heart disease. Most experts agree that a combination of moderate exercise and intense activity is the best combination for improving and maintaining health. But if you’re more comfortable with a goal of 10,000 steps a day, try to do at least 30% of them - 3,000 steps at a faster pace.