Like most years, new year’s resolutions come and go. We hear from our patients frequently about what their goals are and what they’d like to accomplish. Majority of the time people say “I’d like to get back in the gym, or I’d like to lose weight. What we recommend to our patients is:
Walking is a great way to get started improving your health and losing weight. We’ve always heard that a daily goal for walking should be 10,000 steps. Ironically as we began to look into this number, we realized that there’s not any actual research to support it. It’s basically an arbitrary number someone came up with at some point.
Now to be fair, there is research to support walking 10,000 steps per day. In fact, logging 10,000 steps is associated with some significant health benefits like: lower levels of depression and anxiety, lower body mass index and waist circumference, improved glycemic control in those with Type 2 diabetes, reduced blood pressure and lower LDL “bad” cholesterol. But what happens if you don’t quite get to the 10,000 mark daily? Or if you’re sedentary and looking to start, 10,000 can be quite daunting.
Research confirms walking just 4,400 steps per day can make a major difference!
A recent study in JAMA Internal Medicine followed over 16,000 people for four year to examine their average step counts. What they found is those who walked just 4,400 steps per day were 41% less likely to die over the four-year study period compared to those who walked just 2,700.
The health benefits didn’t stop after 4,400. More steps lowered the risk of all-cause mortality all the way up to 7,500 per day. At this point, the benefits began to level off. So, what does this mean?
More steps don’t necessarily equate to better health outcomes.
Becoming more active and integrating movement into your daily routine is a lifestyle change. In our experience, these types of changes take time and we see too many people get overwhelmed. It’s important to set very small achievable goals to get in the mindset of accomplishing what you set out to do. Understanding that changing your lifestyle is a process and not an overnight, all or nothing event is the key to success.
If after reading this you decided to start walking 10,000 steps per day and then on day one you only make it 5,000 steps before getting tired, how do you think you’ll feel about day 2? What if this time you start with a goal of 2,000 steps? Seem more do-able? If you started at 2,000 steps on day 1 and increased your activity by 10% each day after that, you’d reach 4,400 steps in 10 days. After 4,400, you’d reach 7,500 in only an additional 5 days. The point of this is to put into context that small goals are more achievable than a single huge one.
Everyone has to start somewhere. Don’t let the idea of some huge goal stop you from lacing up your shoes and starting in the first place. The goal is to work your way into being more active from where you are today.
Luckily today, everyone has a pedometer (step-counter). Cell phones, Fit Bit, Apple Watch, etc… These all have the capability of counting your steps. In a research article from 2007, they found people who tracked their steps, tended to get in a little more than 2,000 more steps per day, than the people who didn’t track their steps. They found this 2,000 step difference the be significantly associated with weight loss and lower blood pressure.
Rather than stressing about meeting some large target like 10,000, 7,500, or even 4,400 steps, it’s more important to set a personalized goal focused on you. Setting small achievable goals creates the foundation to grow from. This will ultimately help build your endurance and intensity. If you’re already past this conversation and reaching 10,000+ steps per day, adding incline, changing terrain, or timing yourself are great ways to challenge your progress.
In 2005, there was a research study which examined the knee joint during a weight loss program. They found that for every one pound of weight lost, the pressure on the knee joint was reduced by 4 pounds. Now extrapolate that to 40, 50, even 60 pounds overweight and you’re looking at some serious added pressure to your knees. Add in the number of steps the average person takes throughout the day and is it a wonder why knee pain is so common? Added wear and tear contributes more to chronic pain and injuries of your joints than most other traumas. This same principle applies to your other joints too. Your feet, ankles, hips, and spine all take on added pressure due to being overweight.
We challenge you to try to walk just 4,400 steps per day in this new year. Using this number as a starting point can make a major difference in your health and even help you live longer!