Walking is one of the most innate human activities. Before cars, before the Metro, before horses, etc., humans walked. In many places around the world, walking is still a primary mode of transportation. Yet Americans, as a whole, are unnaturally sedentary.
The health community typically recommends that people walk about 10,000 steps per day for general health. Anything below 5,000 steps per day is considered sedentary. Americans average 5,117. It’s not that walking is impossible in a modern world; similarly industrialized countries clock in at 9,695 (Australia), 9,650 (Switzerland), and 7,168 (Japan).
10,000 steps is equivalent to about five miles. Adding a five-mile walk into your schedule each day may seem like a significant commitment, but keep in mind that the steps are cumulative—every step you take throughout the day counts, whether or not they’re all at the same time.
It’s actually healthier to break up your steps throughout the day rather than getting them all at once. The human body isn’t designed to sit still for hours at a time, and it’s good for your circulation, joints, muscles and mental clarity to get up and move around as often as you can. However, many people who work office jobs find that they need to deliberately “take a walk” in order to meet the 10,000 step guideline.
THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF WALKING
Walking 10,000 steps most days of the week has a wide range of physical and mental health benefits:
Burns body fat
Strengthens legs, hips and core muscles
Increases energy, reduces fatigue
Promotes intestinal regularity
Strengthens the heart and increases circulation
Reduces stiffness in joints and improves posture and flexibility
Improves mental alertness, memory, creativity and problem solving
Elevates mood and helps relieve stress
Helps relieve sleep apnea and insomnia
The easiest way to measure the amount of walking you get each day is with a fitness tracker like the Fitbit. Most smartphones also have accurate pedometer technology, though you’ll have to keep your phone with you whenever you move.