I’m a massive fan of walking for fitness, health and fat loss. Walking has been proven to be one of the most user-friendly forms of exercise around. You don’t need any equipment or special training, so you can walk almost anywhere and anytime. That means that people who start walking programs are much more likely to stick to them, and when it comes to successful exercise, consistency is the key.
To spread the good word about the benefits of walking, I have produced a guide and several articles to help you get started.
Walking for health – article here
The best walking shoes – article here
Each of these guides and articles is designed to help make your walking workouts as enjoyable, comfortable, and effective as possible. After all, if you enjoy what you are doing, you are much more likely to do it.
How far should you walk each day?
A lot of people ask me how far they should walk each day, and that’s a very good question. My gut reaction is to say “as far and as often as you can” but I know that’s not the most helpful response. Most of us prefer something more measurable and specific to aim for.
To find a more accurate answer, I did some research and the most common answer that came up was 10,000 steps – which is about 5-6 miles per day depending on how long your strides are. This seems like a good target for most people and adds up to about 90 minutes of walking per day. That might sound like a lot but it’s actually easy to achieve.
I used a pedometer to track my steps (more on that later) and clock up my 10,000 steps per day like this:
Walk to work: 3,000 steps
Walk around the office: 1000 steps
Quick lunchtime walk: 1,500 steps
Walk home: 3,000 steps
A quick walk after dinner: 1,500 steps
I really don’t have to try very hard to clock up 10,000 steps. All I do is use my car less, sneak in a 15-minute lunchtime walk, and add a couple of mini-walks to hit my target for the day. Because my 10,000 steps are spread throughout the day, I never feel tired, and I don’t even feel like I’m exercising. Easy, right?
But then I started wondering about the recommendation to walk 10,000 steps per day. Where did it come from? The answer was quite interesting.
The history of the 10,000-step rule
It turns out the 10,000-step rule originates in Japan, back in the 1960s. According to my studies, a doctor called Yoshiro Hatano estimated that the average person at that time walked around 5,000 steps per day. He concluded that doubling this number to 10,000 would have a big benefit for both health and fitness.
Another interesting fact is that the Japanese word for pedometer, is “manpo-kei”, which translates as “10,000 step counter.” What a weird coincidence!
The World Health Organization (WHO) agrees with Dr. Hatano and has stated that walking 10,000 steps per day will significantly reduce your risk of developing many diseases while helping you get fit and keep your weight in check. 10,000 steps per day will reduce your risk of:
- Heart disease and strokes
- Heart attacks
- Some cancers
- Metabolic syndrome
Does this mean you need to take 10,000 steps per day? Of course not. However, it’s a sensible and realistic goal for most people. Just don’t try and do all the steps at once and build up to that level gradually over a few weeks or even months.
For example, if 4,000 steps per day is challenging, stick with that for a few weeks before increasing your target to 5,000. Increase by another 1,000 steps per week until you hit 10,000.
Can you exceed 10,000 steps per day? Most definitely! Unlike a lot of types of exercise, such as running, when it comes to walking more is better. If you can work up to 15,000 steps per day, you’ll do yourself even more good.
The bottom line is that, for most people, 10,000 steps per day is a good-sized target that also has a nice ring to it. But, if that’s too much for you right now, even a few thousand steps per day will be beneficial.
So, how do you count your steps to make sure you reach 10,000 (or your chosen goal) per day? Let’s discuss!
How to count your steps
I have a friend who was in the marines and a lot of his job involved walking and following routes on maps. He told me that, to measure distance, the marines would thread 10 beads onto a piece of string and slide one bead down the string for every 100 steps they took. This allowed them to not just count steps but also measure distance as they had previously worked out how far 100 steps would take them.
This is a very old-school method, but you COULD use it if you wanted to.
There are also apps you can download onto your smartphone which will track the distance you walk and the number of steps. These are good, but I prefer not to use my phone when walking. For me, walking is the perfect opportunity to escape from ringing phones, demanding bosses, and work in general. If I have my phone with my and it rings, I WILL look at it and may be tempted to answer it. Instead of enjoying a calm, relaxing, energizing walk, I’ll just end up annoyed and stressed.
That’s why I prefer to use a step counter called a pedometer.
Pedometers are small, battery-powered devices that count your steps. They are simple to use, very light, and relatively cheap too. It’s important to understand that a pedometer is NOT an activity tracker.
Step counting pedometers have an accelerometer inside them which, as you walk, moves to register how many steps you take. Some may calculate your distance by multiplying the number of steps taken by your stride length, and may even estimate calories burned, but that’s it. They are not connected to the internet, they don’t monitor your sleep, they just count steps.
An activity tracker is much more advanced, often containing a GPS (global positioning system) chip that tracks your workouts using satellites. Because they are packed with technology, they have loads more functions, but that functionality comes with a bigger price.
Personally, I prefer low-tech pedometers because they are cheap and easy to use. After all, walking is supposed to be an accessible form of exercise for all. If you have to spend $300 on a state-of-the-art activity tracker, that benefit disappears instantly.
If you’ve got an activity tracker, then use it. But, if not, a pedometer will really help make your workouts more trackable and help to keep you motivated. I make it a game to hit my target of 10,000 steps per day. Whatever your goal is, a pedometer will really help keep you on the right path.
Here are three different pedometers that make counting your steps while walking very easy.
1. Ozeri 4x3razor Pocket 3D Pedometer
Fitness gadgets can be very expensive. I think that’s what puts a lot of people of exercise in the first place. But that’s not always the case, as this neat, simple pedometer proves. Despite being so compact, the Ozeri 4x3razor Pocket 3D Pedometer records steps, distance, calories, fat burned and exercise time. Available at Amazon.com. It also turns off when you aren’t walking so it won’t measure anything but walking steps. It’s super-thin, and promoted as being the thinnest, lightest pedometer available.
Amazon.com reviewers award this pedometer a decent 3.6 out of five stars, with 59% giving the full five out of five. Prices vary according to color but, at the time of writing, this useful, compact pedometer costs as little as $11.99. Get it at Amazon.com.
2. 3DFitBud Simple Step Counter Walking 3D Pedometer
Have you ever heard the expression “paralysis by analysis?” Fitness technology allows you to measure almost every aspect of your workout, and all that information means you’ll spend time and energy tracking it, when you should just get up, get out, and exercise. Having too much information can get in the way of just being more active. That’s why I like this pedometer – all it does is count steps. It’s got a big, clear display so you can see exactly how far you have walked per day. No calories, no timer, no distance – just steps.
The 3DFitBud Simple Step Counter Walking 3D Pedometer scores an impressive 4.3 stars out of five, with 71% giving it the full five out of five. Available at Amazon.com.
3. Realalt 3DTriSport Walking 3D Pedometer
This pedometer offers a few more functions, including counting steps, measuring distance, counting calories, and tracking your exercise time. It stores this information for 30 days, so you can review your progress. You can also program it with your step goal for added motivation. Compact and lightweight, you can clip this pedometer to your waistband or wear it on the supplied lanyard. It uses a tiny CR2032 battery (readily available) which the manufacturer says should last 12 months.
Available at Amazon.com. Scoring 4.4 out of five stars, 72% of reviewers award the Realalt 3DTriSport Walking 3D Pedometer the full five out of five stars. It costs around $25.00 but, for that price, you get several useful features.
Which one is right for you?
If low price if your main concern, you can’t beat the Ozeri 4x3razor Pocket 3D Pedometer, available at Amazon.com. Despite being the cheapest pedometer on review, it’s a great little product with lots of useful features, and it really is incredibly thin and light.
If like me, you’d rather just focus on how many steps you’ve taken, the 3DFitBud Simple Step Counter Walking 3D Pedometer, available at Amazon.com is perfect. With its big, uncluttered display, it’s easy to read and won’t distract you with unwanted information.
If you want a simple to use pedometer that also has plenty of useful features, the Realalt 3DTriSport Walking 3D Pedometer, available at Amazon.com is a good choice. It’s small and neat but will reveal lots of details about your workouts. The 30-day memory is also a good feature.