Should You Really Aim For 10,000 Steps a Day?

The universal goal of 10,000 steps a day might be the worst PR move ever for fitness. It sounds so easy, but it’s not. And, that expectation has doomed more than a few fitness journeys.

Not long after Fitbit burst on the scene and made the pedometer a popular fitness device we’ve been hearing that 10,000 steps should be our goal. Who exactly decided that number?

More than 50 years ago, a Japanese professor of health science believed walking 10,000 steps a day would help people avoid obesity. He invented a pedometer and named it Manpo-kei which means “10,000 step meter”. He promoted it heavily and, well, it stuck.

So, here’s what happens now. Someone gets a Fitbit and straps it on and aims for 10,000 steps because they believe that’s what the goal SHOULD be. They move about their day, like they always do, fully expecting to nail it. They assume they move “all day long” so 10,000 should be easy. They won’t just nail that goal, they intend to shatter it.

Sadly, at the end of that first day they are far short of 10,000 steps. They are shocked…and discouraged. But, they don’t give up. They might give it a good try for about two weeks, perhaps even reaching 10,000 a few times. But, then recognizing just how hard it is to do every day they lose their enthusiasm and motivation. They even start “forgetting” to wear their Fitbit. Eventually they just give up and the Fitbit ends up in a drawer.

All because a professor more than 50 years ago thought 10,000 was a good goal.

Here’s the thing…the typical American moves about 4,000 steps a day. To reach 10,000 they would have to add an hour of walking. Do I think that’s possible? Yes, but not all at once.

To put this in perspective the CDC recommends we get 150 minutes of moderate activity every week. If you add an hour of walking every day you’d be up to 420 minutes. That’s a pretty unrealistic leap to make all at once.

To be clear…I think 10,000 is a good goal. After all, I’m doing a 20k One Year Step Challenge. My target is 20,000 steps every day for a year with no breaks. So, yes, I’m all in favor of increasing step goals and using walking to Win at Fitness.

But, let’s get to 10,000 the right way. Fitness is a marathon…not a sprint. The real goal is to make fitness part of your lifestyle. Walking is an ideal way to do this, but if you jump in the deep end before learning how to swim it’s not going to end well.

I’ve put together a step by step guide to help you reach 10,000 steps every day. It’s completely free.

If you struggle with motivation to stick with fitness this blog will help. Don’t be intimated by the title. That’s my goal…not yours. But, my bigger goal is to help you start a fitness journey that doesn’t stop and builds momentum. If you click FOLLOW (below on your phone and to the right and above on your computer) you’ll get an email with a link to each motivating article the moment it’s published.



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