Walking 10,000 steps
to good health may be harder than it looks. Simply padding around
from place to place during the day, while better than nothing,
isn't enough to achieve the federal minimum target for physical
activity, researchers say.
The U.S. Surgeon
General's guidelines call for at least 30 minutes a day of moderate
physical activity on most, if not all, days of the week.
But the pedometer
and the surgeon general don't quite mesh.
The surgeon general's
guidelines don't mention walking 10,000 steps, even though people
have gotten the idea they do, said Guy C. Le Masurier, a doctoral
student at Arizona State University East in Mesa. The figure
does not equate to the Surgeon General's guidelines, he said.
The 10,000 steps
concept is a Japanese import, created by a researcher who helped
to promote pedometer-measured walking into a Japanese national
a good number but there's nothing magical in it," said Jim Hill,
director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University
of Colorado Health Sciences Center.
"The best scientific
evidence has demonstrated that a daily 30-minute brisk walk
is important for health, not whether the step count reaches
10,000," Le Masurier wrote in the January-February issue of
the American College of Sports Medicine's Health and Fitness
That's another case
in which the surgeon general and the pedometer don't agree.
Walking 30 minutes would require only about 3,000 steps, said
Catrine Tudor-Locke, assistant professor of health promotion
at the university. Walking 10,000 steps would take an hour and
a half if the walker decided to do it all at one time, she said.
The average person
probably does 5,500-7,500 steps in ordinary living, but does
it sporadically, Tudor-Locke said.
And Le Masurier
said meeting at least the surgeon general's minimums is important.
When people amble in shorter bursts, he said, they don't sustain
enough intensity to reach the moderate-activity targets.
The pedometer won't
tell them, either. Pedometers count steps but not how much effort
the walker is putting out.
"Brisk walking is
being late for the bus or late for the meeting in the office,"
Le Masurier said. "It's hustling. Striding is another way to
say brisk walking."
To measure this,
Le Masurier had about 60 sedentary women wear, besides pedometers,
accelerometers that could track changes in their velocity. He
found that only about half of women who hit 10,000 or more steps
were charging hard enough to meet the federal guidelines.
"We need to think
about quality, not duration, of stepping," Le Masurier said.
However, there is
some benefit to 10,000 steps, because only 17 percent of the
women who were short of 10,000 steps met the standard, he said.
And for those who
want to try, ordinary activity puts 10,000 steps within walking
distance, Tudor-Locke said. The additional steps could be taken
if the walker uses the surgeon general's recommended minimum
as an exercise goal. A pedometer wouldn't be needed but a watch
would be, because 30 minutes of walking would cover the ground,
Not everyone is
capable of jumping right on 10,000 steps. People who are sedentary
take fewer than 5,000 steps a day and should ratchet up gradually,
especially if they have health problems, Tudor-Locke said. How
gradually would depend on the ability of the individual.
The point is to
"I don't want people
to think that, if they don't get to 10,000, they failed," Hill
said. "It really matters where you are, and that you do more."
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