Walking for fitness: How many steps will save your life?

Walking for fitness?

By now, we’ve all been indoctrinated into the notion that we should aim for 10,000 steps per day.

10,000 steps per day equates to roughly 5 miles of walking but will vary slightly depending upon your height and stride length. And it’s a good enough goal. Walking 5 miles per day would be great for you!

Remember, for millions of years walking was our primary method of physical activity. We did it every day, rain or shine, to forage for food. Typically 5 to 10 miles per day.

So, our bodies are biologically rewarded for walking because walking promoted survival and, well, that’s pretty much how natural selection works.

Where did the 10,000 step rule come from?

The 10,000 step rule originated from a 1965 marketing campaign in Japan. There wasn’t any science behind it. So, while it’s a good enough rule of thumb I think it might be more useful to look at the ACTUAL science of walking for fitness because the current belief may be presenting too high a barrier to entry for people who have a strong aversion to physical activity.

For people who have never exercised before, for elderly people who might lack athleticism, for people who just straight out HATE exercise, walking 5 miles a day is a deal killer.

No problem.

Recent studies have shown that as little as 2,000 steps per day is associated with positive health outcomes for elderly woman.

And doing 4,400 steps a day shows a decrease in mortality rates.

That’s a whole new ballgame.

Mind you, I’m not talking about OPTIMAL HEALTH here. If you want optimal health, whatever that means to you, you’re going to need to dig deeper than 2,000 to 4,400 steps per day. You’re going to need strength and mobility training and some cardiovascular exercise in the moderate to upper reaches of your capacity, too.

But I’m looking at this as GREAT NEWS for all of those people out there that we know who don’t exercise, at least in part, because the common belief is that they need to do MUCH MORE THAN THEY ACTUALLY DO!

So, I’m passing this on to you in hopes that you will share it with people you know and love who are sedentary, who are elderly, who need physical activity.

2,000 to 4,400 steps per day is vastly more achievable to people in these categories. And by walking, we can potentially:

What’s more, you don’t have to get all of these steps at one time. You can chip away at them over the course of the day.

So, please, find a way to productively share this information with the people in your life who need it. They can add quality and years to their lives in a very reasonable and achievable way!

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Jonathan Aluzas is co-owner of Arena Fitness, a fitness center that offers group training in Encino as well as personal training in Northridge.