You’ve probably heard this question being asked a lot more frequently in recent times, and it has implications for your health, so it is an important question to be able to answer!
Your daily step count can give you an indication of your current level of physical activity, which is an independent predictor of health. This means the more physically active you are, in general the more protected you are against the development of chronic clinical conditions including obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It is important for everyone to be aware of their daily step count, but particularly important if you aren’t taking part in any form of structured exercise or physical activity every day.
How many steps should I take per day?
Your goal should be to achieve 10,000 steps per day, which puts you in the ‘somewhat active’ category. This is the minimum step requirement per day to achieve health benefits for your body and mind. If your current daily step count is less than 10,000, you may need to start taking steps (literally) to improve your health. And the best thing is, it’s quite easy!
However, if your goals is weight loss, then 10,000 steps is the minimum target you should aim for per day, but you will also need to address your nutritional intake, and increase your energy expenditure with a training programme designed specifically for weight loss. Dr Diane Cooper’s PhD and expertise is in weight loss, this is our speciality, so if you would like help with this, please contact us for an appointment and we would be delighted to work with you 😊.
Below is a list of categories ranging from sedentary to very active based on the number of steps you take per day. Which category do you fall in to??
- < 5,000 steps per day – sedentary (inactive)
- 5,000 – 8,000 steps per day – low active
- 8,000 – 10,000 steps per day – somewhat active
- > 10,000 steps – active
- > 12,000 steps – very active
How do I count my steps?
There are a broad selection of products and phone applications available that allow you to monitor your steps, even a good old fashion simple pocket pedometer will do the trick. All of the devices that are available e.g. fitbits, metabolic armbands, pedometers, accelerometers and phone apps have their own pro’s and con’s in terms of reliability, cost and ease of use and interpretation. The product you chose will depend on your needs, for example we use accelerometers in our health research studies, but they are quite expensive and require training to analyse and interpret the data. If you want to get an idea of the number of steps you take per day, and you don’t want it to cost money, then you can simply download a step count app for free on most smart phones. There are limitations with these apps in terms of reliability, but if you wear the phone in your hip pocket for a few days, it will track your steps per day and give you an idea of which activity category you fit in to.
Is increasing my steps really going to have much of an effect on my health?
Yes! Did you know the 4th leading cause of death worldwide is poor physical fitness? This lies ahead of obesity which is currently the 5th leading cause of mortality worldwide. These statistics are brought to us by the world health organisation (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs385/en/). Lack of physical activity and poor fitness in our modern sedentary lifestyles is strongly associated with heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, certain cancers, and depression. Conversely, fitness is an independent predictor of health. This means that generally the fitter you are the more protected you are against the development of chronic conditions including obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. This is true independent of body weight, so people who are overweight or obese are protected against these conditions to a greater extent if they have high levels of fitness. Because of these known associations backed up by decades of scientific research it is paramount that we increase our activity levels in order to improve our health and well-being.
If I can’t count my steps how much physical activity should I do??
The current American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) guidelines for health are:
Adults should do 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (five days per week) or 20-60 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise (three days per week).
This is the absolute minimum amount of physical activity that we need to achieve to keep us healthy. A practical, simple, cheap and enjoyable way to complete at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise for 5 days a week is to walk. If you would like help to achieve this goal with expert supervision and in a fun environment, we hold walking and jogging interval sessions every Tuesday evening from 7-8pm outside of True Fitness, and we would be delighted to see you there. The sessions costs €5 each and they are open to men and women of all ages and fitness levels. As I said, it is quiet easy, yet very rewarding.
How do I increase my steps?
No matter what activity category you fall into, whether it’s sedentary or active, increasing your steps should be done gradually. An easy and motivating way to do this is to make weekly goals for yourself. For example:
If you are currently fall into the sedentary category, walking less than 5,000 steps a day, you should aim to increase your steps by 500-1,000 each day per week. Using gradual increments for your step goals is not only motivating but also realistic and sustainable. Increasing your steps by 500 daily is the equivalent of walking for an extra 4-5 minutes daily. Throughout the week this equates to an extra 3,500 steps, adding approx. 2.8km to your weekly distance covered. So, in week one aim for 6,000 steps per day, week 2 aim for 7,000 steps per day, and so on until you reach your target of 10,000 steps per day.
You can increase your step county by making very small simple changes in your life. Here are a few ideas:
- Park your car slightly further away from the shop/work than you usually would
- Get off the bus one stop before your usual stop (if this equates to only 5-10 minutes of walking)
- Always walk the ‘long’ way, no short cuts
- Take the stairs instead of the lift
- If you work in an office or a job that involves a lot of sitting, stand up every hour and take a 2 minute walk
- Go for a walk in the evening to make up for lost daily steps; 1km walking = ~1,250 steps
- Don’t sit down for long periods of time, remind yourself to get up and walk for a couple of minutes every hour
- Participate in group walking/jogging classes; True Fitness, Portarlington @ 7pm on Tuesdays for example
But in general, just find every opportunity in the day to become more active, this will increase your step count and improve your health. Activities like housework, exercise classes, playing sport, dancing, mowing the grass, walking the dog, and just playing with the children all clocks up these essential steps. Just get moving!
Yours in health,
Dr. Diane Cooper
Ms Sharon Fennelly (Sport scientist)