Your step count, huh – who knew they’d get so competitive? Whether you abide by the 10,000 steps a day metric or partake of newer evidence that as little as 7,000 steps can help shake things up, the benefits of daily movement are indisputable.
How, though, do you keep up whatever it is you’re doing when the streets turn cold, dark and wet and all you want to do is hunker down under a duvet with [enter reality TV show du jour]? To help keep your daily step count in quadruple digits (anything under a 1000 is impressive for entirely different reasons) we asked our experts to walk us through their top tips.
Why is step count so important?
“Your daily step count is an effective way to control your weight, and even increase long term longevity,” says Steven Dick, director at The Fitness Group. “Studies have shown that walking at least 7000 steps a day can decrease your risk of death from all causes by up to 70%.”
Dick sees walking as an exercise hack. Unlike pounding away on a treadmill or hefting weights in the gym, walking about is a low-impact, stealth way to burn calories. Often, it’s this sort of ‘extra’ exercise that is the difference between hitting your weight-loss goals or not. “Increasing your step count is something that is accessible without having to join a gym, pay for a membership and can be great for your mental health too,” he says.
“Getting outside in the fresh air and getting moving is great,” agrees PT Robert Utley, pointing to evidence that two hours walking outside per week is associated with improved health and wellbeing. “Get out, walk, relax, and take a deep breath,” he advises.
As sunlight and Vitamin D levels drop off through winter, getting as much exposure to sunlight as possible can be crucial.
Do I really need to hit 10,000 steps?
Until recently, conventional wisdom advised 10,000 steps a day. Which is quite an effort and, for many, a number so high as to be off-putting. “All of these metrics in our lives suck,” says Utley. “Being active is about asking yourself what you want to achieve. Is there a better way to hit your goals?”
“The 10,000 steps metric was actually born from a marketing campaign from a company selling pedometers before the 1964 Olympic Games!” adds Dick, pointing to a 2021 study from the University of Massachusetts which found that walking at least 7000 steps per day reduces the risk of all-risk mortality by 50-70%.
“We don’t need to be overly focused on 10,000 steps,” he says. “Nonetheless, any increase in step count will contribute to a higher expenditure of energy and therefore provide greater calorie control.”
What can I do to be more active?
Upping your step count in winter can feel like an effort, but break it down into small changes and it isn’t quite so daunting.
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