You have probably heard or seen the headline, “You should aim for 10,000 steps a day.” Fitness trackers have based metrics from this statistic. Headlines aplenty have been created with this number.
Where did 10,000 steps/day originate from?
Is it a valuable measure that you should be using?
Does it help athletic performance?
While there are many points that blogs and articles reference as the origination of the 10,000 steps/day guideline, it seems to point back to an initiative in Japan to help improve the health of the general population.
The foundational research to test walking activity on health was completed with an Amish community. Researchers placed pedometers members of an Amish community to track how many steps they averaged over a 7-day period.
Why did they use an Amish community? Amish communities have a substantially lower obesity rate compared to the US population. At the time of the study, the US hovered around a 30% obesity rate. The Amish community, a 4% obesity rate. The study found that Amish men averaged 18,000+ steps a day and Amish women averaged 14,000+ steps. The only day they dipped below 10,000 steps was on their Sunday day of rest.
In the US, we struggle to even hit 10,000 steps a day. With deskbound careers, efficient transportation, and resource accessibility, our daily steps have plummeted.
Even people who engage in regular sports performance training or fitness training struggle to hit this number. As our fitness and training offerings have continued to evolve, some have started to drift from the necessity of the 10,000 steps/day goal. Recently on Instagram, I polled my followers to see what the general feeling was. The poll ended right around 60/40 in favor of the 10,000 steps/day goal.
Is it a valid metric for sports performance? Is it a valid metric for health?
I still think the 10,000 steps/day achievement provides sneaky, but influential performance benefits. You will not see these when looking at the surface level, but I think these points should be considered when finding where 10,000 steps fit into your training practice.
Gait is a foundational performance movement.
This one is so simple that it is almost disguised. Your gait is your foundational performance movement. For example, if you watch a video of someone swimming freestyle, watch from their torso to their ankles. You’ll notice that a freestyle stroke has a similar pattern to a walking. Yes, things are happening at a higher intensity, but the foundation is there. Wild right?! It doesn’t just stop at swimming; you can find gait overlap in many aspects of sports performance.
Effective training is all about strong habits.
There are some freak athletes out there. There are also some freak athletes that are products of consistent and simple training completed day-in and day-out for years. I highlighted this in one of my segments a few weeks ago. Kobe Bryant is regarded as one of the best basketball players in history, but his practices were very simple. He hard wired his performance habits. This way it didn’t matter where he was, he could perform. Simply striving for 10,000 steps/day (and strive for quality steps) will carry over to other performance habits you’re trying to implement.
Movement outside of your training sessions is SUPER important.
If you’re training as part of a team, program, or for a specific goal, you probably have your training plan well built out. What movement do you get outside of training? Now if you’re training for an Ironman, you might be set for daily movement. However, many athletes (especially masters athletes) do not get that much movement during and outside of training. The stiffness that results from this can be detrimental to your next day of training. Movement helps improve blood flow, aids in recovery, and keeps your joints primed and ready. Sitting around most of the day after a training session is wasting valuable efforts. The 10,000 steps/day goal is a good reminder to get out of your chair and focus on movement throughout your day versus just in training.
Your feet can help your posture.
I always love going to the beach. Don’t get me wrong, I love to surf, feel the sand between my toes, and hear the soothing sound of waves crashing. I also like to people watch. Next time you’re at the beach, watch as people get to the sand and kick off their shoes or flip flops. Their posture almost immediately improves. Your feet love to feel the ground and pick up valuable information this way. Walking is a great source of communication between your body and the world around you. Try to ditch your shoes when you can, but even when you are wearing shoes, use this as a time to reset your posture and check in on how you’re feeling.
Walking is a great way to decompress.
Earlier in my career, I was in a very stressful work environment. Demands were high and resources were slim. While I learned a lot from this experience, each day would take a toll on me mentally. My saving grace during that time was that I walked to and from work. I remember leaving work on many occasions feeling just worn down and mentally uptight. During the 20-minute walk home, I would just focus on my breathing and try to focus on things around me (ex. Birds chirping in a tree, good smells coming from a restaurant). While it seems a little funny for some, this was extremely helpful. I would arrive home feeling a bit refreshed and more at peace with the day. This also applies to helping you recover from a hard training day, not just a stressful day at work.
While the 10,000 steps/day goal might seem outdated for some, I think it is still a valuable reminder of how important movement is. The benefits listed are just a few of many! This does not just apply to a training plan, rather a holistic look at health, fitness, and performance. What changes can you make to achieve this goal regularly?
YOUR NEXT STEPS
I am always game for a good pun! Do you know you need to spend more time on your movement but always seem to get to busy? Have you tried to follow plans in the past but they are just too complex? Are you in need of something that does not involve additional equipment?
Take part in our free 10-day movement course! This is an email guided course that takes you through a movement routine, daily, for 10-days. You will unlock video demonstrations, daily tips to help motivate you, and a plan to help you improve your movement patterns, minimize pain, and prevent injuries. The best part, you will not need to carve out hours of time!