10,000 Steps: Rationale and Alternatives

Exercise is the foundation for BodyWHealth. Most important, it triggers the release of anti-inflammatory cytokines that drive physical rejuvenation. The more you nourish your body with these beneficial chemicals, the younger you’ll feel and the healthier you will be. You resist the natural decay of aging.

You also release endorphins, protein messengers that enhance mood. And you burn calories, helping you to achieve an energy balance that favors leanness, and burning off excess fat which otherwise would serve as an incubator for inflammatory elements that cause chronic disease.

For these reasons, Golden Rule #1 for BodyWHealth is to walk 10,000 steps at least 5 days of every week of your life. This rule is as important to you if you’re a healthy 35 year old in good shape or an aging 55 year old that hasn’t exercised for 25 years. If you’re out of shape and want to turn your life around, start with a visit to your physician!

Let’s first understand a bit more about the 10,000 steps. 10,000 steps is the equivalent of 5 miles if you have an average stride of about 2.5 feet, and should take you about 90 minutes if you walk a little faster than the average walking speed of 3 miles per hour. Remember though that this target is your goal for the entire day. The average sedentary person already walks about 2,000 steps in a day – walking to the bathroom and kitchen, walking into the store or cafeteria at work. It all counts. So, the average person only needs to achieve about 8,000 exercise steps a day (5 days per week). 8,000 steps is equivalent to about 4 miles and should take an hour if you walk at a brisk pace. If that seems like a big chunk of time, then cut it up. Walk for 25 minutes in the morning and again in the evening, and get up from your desk for a 5-minute walk mid-morning and mid-afternoon. Easy!

If 8,000 steps feel like a reach, then start with 500 steps, or whatever small number seems achievable. Then add 500 additional steps each week. This would take you 16 weeks to reach 8,000. You will be half way there at the magic 7-week mark (see Rule of 7s).

I have chosen 10,000 steps to be the primary recommendation and rallying call for BodyWHealth. It delivers exactly what we need physiologically. As important, almost everybody can do it. But it’s not the only exercise that will achieve the results. There are many alternatives, and there is good reason to experiment with more than one. Variation will keep you mentally sharp, and using a broad range of muscle groups is beneficial.

The graphic below shows how several common alternatives rate against the magic 10,000-step recommendation. This will help you to mix up your exercise prescription a bit, keeping you fresh, motivated and healthy.

Calorie Ladder

There are several good on-line calculators that will help you estimate how many calories you will burn doing your exercise. I use the MyFitnessPal calculator. These calculators adjust for the 3 important variables that can affect your estimate. First is your weight. This is more impactful when you are doing weight-bearing exercise like walking or running. The more you weigh, the more you need to carry, and the more energy you burn. Second, the duration of exercise is important. Your calorie burn increases in a linear fashion under most circumstances. If you double the duration of exercise, you will double your calorie burn. Finally, the type and intensity of exercise makes a big difference. Intense, high-speed running or swimming and rope-jumping burn energy much faster than a slow amble in the park. Step out, cycle, swim or paddle your way to BodyWHealth!

Have fun,

Roddy

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