Is It Really Necessary to Do 10,000 Steps?

by Charles Platkin, PhD

Many experts recommend that we take 10,000 per day, or walk about 5 miles, in order to get healthy. The problem is that this recommendation can be intimidating and is not always realistic from a time perspective. Additionally, there is no precise evidence that this is the exact number you must meet to achieve health benefits. It seems almost too round and perfect for something so specific.
In fact, the idea of 10,000 steps goes back more than 50 years to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. It was actually a marketing slogan for a Japanese pedometer called “manpo-kei,” which literally means “10,000 steps meter.” The marketing concept was to make it easy for people to increase their without “thinking” too much. All they would need is a simple pedometer. Today, many of us don’t even know what a pedometer is – we use our smartphones and watches to count steps.

So, do we really need to walk 5 miles, or about 90 to 100 minutes, per day? Well, not necessarily. In fact The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (Adults) call for 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic / cardiovascular activity every week, or about 22 minutes per day.

Luckily, there are more ways to stay active than taking 10,000 steps per day. Here are a few suggestions that may sound more exciting to you, along with the number of calories per hour you’ll burn doing each one:

– Bicycling: Try to bike to work, or take a leisurely ride after work. 422 calories per hour.
– Bowling: Join a league or just go for fun with your family. 211 calories per hour.
– Dancing: Take a class, purchase a DVD or go online and dance to your favorite tune. 316 calories per hour.
– Fly-fishing: This also can be a stress reducer. 420 calories per hour.
– Gardening: Getting on your hands and knees and crawling around pulling weeds, planting, seeding. 316 calories per hour. For more on gardening and growing see:
– General housework: 246 calories per hour.
– Golfing: Even riding around the course in a cart works. 245 calories per hour (303 pulling your clubs). And just having a fun night with your family playing miniature golf burns 210 calories per hour.
– Hopscotch: Play with your kids. 350 calories per hour.
– Horseback Riding: The horse doesn’t do all the work. 246 calories per hour.
– Ice skating: 387 calories per hour.
– Jumping rope: It offers wonderful cardio benefits, as well as balance, coordination and agility. 562 calories per hour (9.4 calories per minute).
– Kayaking: really fun and provides a great upper-body workout. 350 calories per hour
– Pool or Billiards: 175 calories per hour.
– Portable Pedaling Device: If you’re sitting at a desk or cubical, perhaps try a portable pedaling device that can fit under your desk (starting at $20). 210 calories per hour.
– Sailing: Sailing seems like an expensive sport– and in some cases in can be. 210 calories per hour
– Table tennis / Ping-Pong: A fun, simple way to burn calories. The cost of a Ping-Pong or table tennis table starts at about $250. 281 calories per hour.
– Tennis: 492 calories per hour.
– Trampoline: 246 calories per hour
– Water Aerobics: Not always easy to have access If you have access to a pool, but doing aerobics or cardio in the water reduces stress on the joints. 280 calories per hour
– Yoga: There are many yoga classes offered at local recreation centers and facilities as well as at yoga studios. 175 calories per hour.

Also, try the following to increase your steps:

– Zoos and Aquariums
The zoo is an excellent place to get in some in addition to some family time and fun. With almost 200 zoos nationwide, chances are you’re only a short trip away from a day with the animals. You can easily spend a few hours visiting various habitats, and a single hour of leisurely walking burns almost 200 calories (or even more if you’re pushing a stroller). Just make sure to steer clear of any diet disasters your local zoo may be frying up. Pack your own lunch and snacks to ward off hunger.

There’s a bit less walking at an aquarium, but you can still manage to get in a good 20 to30 minutes in a visit.

– Sightseeing
Sightseeing is another excellent way to sneak in under the guise of entertainment and education.
Walking tours: If you live in or near a city or a large community, there are probably organized walking tours available.
College or university campuses: There are thousands of colleges and universities in the United States. And universities spend lots of money to create beautiful campuses, which are great for walking and sightseeing. If you want, you could probably even take one of the tours most colleges and universities offer for prospective students. These are much like city walking tours ­ full of fun facts, anecdotes and historical details. They usually last about 30 minutes. Call ahead to find out when tours are running, and tag along with the pre-freshmen.
Company or plant tour: Many companies offer tours of their facilities that are a great way to get exercise and see something interesting.

– Shopping
There are more than a thousand shopping malls in the United States. Walk the entire mall for a good 30 minutes at moderate speed. The level flooring (fewer injuries) and air conditioning are excellent motivators for using the mall as a walking spot. And you’ll also have the benefit of “people watching” (which makes the time fly) as well as fantasizing about all the great clothes you’ll be able to buy ­ in a smaller size ­ when you’ve reached your weight-loss goal. Check to see if your neighborhood shopping mall has any walking programs available. Just think twice before you chow down at the food court.

– Museums, and Galleries
Art museums also provide comfortable, air-conditioned (or heated) spaces for leisurely walking with plenty of visual stimulation. You can take a tour if you like, or just explore on your own.

If you’re not an art lover, don’t shy away from the museum walk just yet. You may be surprised to find how many interesting places are tucked away out there ­ natural history museums, planetariums, design museums, and many others.

Also try:
– Walking meetings: Instead of sitting around and possibly eating unhealthy foods, whenever possible hold your meetings while you walk. Or, if you can’t convince your colleagues to do that, try walking to your out-of-office meetings..
– Use your head: If you talk on the phone, obtain a headset (if your phone is corded) and stand, or better yet pace, during calls if you have the room and won’t disturb your co-workers.
– Old school: Walk to a co-worker’s desk instead of e-mailing or calling him or her.

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