I was recently putting (read: attempting to put) my 6-month-old son to sleep which requires walking and gently bouncing him around in a circle in our living room for sometimes up to 30 or 40 minutes. After reaching what felt like my 400th lap around the living room I tried looking on the positive side and said to myself “hey, at least I am getting my steps in for the day”. But that got me to thinking, “how many steps should I be taking?” and moreover, what exactly is the right number of steps needed for a person throughout the day. Also, does it really help with overall health to just get steps?
All my research into this subject has turned up that the number of steps doesn’t necessarily matter in regard to overall health. In fact, as long as the total amount of steps acquired throughout the day is greater than 5000 (which is the cutoff for what is classically defined as a sedentary lifestyle), then any health benefits after this will vary depending on the type of steps taken. For example, a person who has 10000 steps in a day but does them at a slow pace is not getting as much of a benefit from those steps as would a person who is only taking 8000 steps but is doing them at a greater pace, and may even be doing them up and down a flight of stairs. That’s not to say that getting 10000 steps in a day is an easy feat or that it doesn’t provide some great health benefits, it’s just that the type of steps taken can often be more beneficial for overall health.
Perhaps, instead of focusing on the total number of steps taken, the emphasis should be placed on the time spent doing the steps. For example, instead of saying “I’m going to get 10000 steps today”, say instead “I’m going to walk for 30 minutes at a moderate pace” or “I’m going to walk up 10 flights of stairs on my way to work”. In doing this, not only will you achieve the right number of steps you are supposed to get, but your overall health will be all the better for having done it.
As a side note, my curiosity into what makes a healthy lifestyle led me eventually to the U.S. department of health website and to specifically the “Healthy People 2020 (HP2020)” program. The HP2020 program is a system of health goals set forth by the U.S. government based on health trends and data to help produce a healthier population by the year 2020. There is actually a LOT of useful information about the program and also about many different health disparities currently affecting the USA. You can visit the program here: https://www.healthypeople.gov/ .