3 Reason’s 10K steps/day may NOT be for you.


I can see the collective furrowing of brows as you read the title. I hear the: “But what about the American Heart Association’s recommendations?” I hear: “Well, my activity tracker already has 10K steps as the default daily goal setting so I don’t know what Dr. Mac is talking about. I mean the fireworks go off and everything when I achieve that goal.” “If you read her last post she was waxing on and on about how walking and exercise has impacted her own life!”

(Sigh) I know how you feel. Trust me when I say, I was about to become the head cheerleader for 10K steps/day; and then it happened. I started digging around for some science to back me up and this is what I found.

Your age makes a big difference in the recommended steps /day.
You see, there have been a whole host of studies done that have gotten us to this magical 10K steps/day. In reviewing these studies, there came to numerous researchers’ attention that your age does matter. These studies also reveal that kids get up to 20K steps per day because of their activity level. Now, for the rest of us the range is from 5K-18K steps/day. Most of us get in 7K-8K just doing everyday life tasks. Surprising, right? Well, this range is due many factors. So what does that mean for you? Don’t worry, keep reading; we’ll wrap it all up at the end.

Thirty minutes of MVPA (moderate to vigorous physical activity) is really the GOLD STANDARD.
Yes, this is the goal everybody should strive for on a daily basis. Rearcher’s discovered that 10K steps doesn’t always equal 30 mins of moderate to vigorous physical activity. That’s right! Research again shows that 2,000 steps over your baseline activity level more accurately equates to 30mins of MVPA. This consistent level of MVPA has been shown to combat the effects of cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, and even depression! Now, here is where 10K got in the mix. Because there needed to be a way for us to know if we were getting in our 30mins of MVPA on a daily basis, activity trackers with more precision began to evolve. So the 10K steps/day is an average! It is the universal number that can encompass most of the variables that make us unique as humans.

Now the 3rd reason 10K steps may NOT be for you.

Your baseline medical status.
What do I mean by that? Well, there are so many different medical conditions that could dictate your activity level at any given time in your life. For example, a patient recovering from cardiac by-pass surgery most certainly needs to have some activity but should be under the strict care of a physician and the entire heart team. For a patient with this status it will take the careful guidance of their healthcare team to decide if and when 10K steps/day is a safe and reasonable goal.

So, now that I’ve kind of kicked the sail out of the 10K steps/day mantra, what next? I would suggest you get an activity tracker (Ladies, there are ones out there with interchangeable bands that can go with your outfits!). Decide with your physician what is a reasonable default goal of steps/day for you to start (I suggest you find one that lets you change the default settings). Then, gradually increase your activity level to that 2K steps above your baseline. As you start to feel better and see that it’s easier to reach your new goal increase your steps/day as you are ready. I guarantee if you just get moving on a regular basis you will see better health. All we need to do is keep moving. So, let’s get started!

Reference: Tudor-Locke, C., Craig, C. L., Brown, W. J., Clemes, S. A., Cocker, K. D., Giles-Corti, B., . . . Blair, S. N. (2011). How many steps/day are enough? for adults. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 8(1), 79. doi:10.1186/1479-5868-8-79