Walk your way to better health

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Research in the 1960s found the average person took just 3500 to 5000 steps per day, and that if they increased their steps to 10,000 per day they would burn 20 per cent of their caloric intake and also become healthier, leaner people!

Decades later, the World Health Organisation and the National Heart Foundation of Australia have taken this research on board and now recommend that we all take 10,000 steps a day to improve our health and reduce the risk of disease. 

Why walking is so good for you

Here are some great reasons to add 10,000 steps into your day:

  • Walking is a low impact, effective way to lose weight when combined with a lower calorie diet.
  • Walking helps to reduce blood pressure.
  • Walking reduces the risks of heart disease and stroke.
  • Walking improves your cardiovascular fitness.
  • Walking increases muscle strength, helps create stronger bones, improves your balance and increases your endurance.
  • Not walking or moving is hazardous to your health. Researchers studied a group of men who typically walked 10,000 steps per day (as measured by a pedometer) and asked them to reduce their steps to only 1350 per day. (After two weeks, it was revealed that the men’s bodies had become worse at metabolising sugars and fats, and that their distribution of body fat began to migrate toward their mid-section.)

Easy steps to make it happen

Follow these steps and start your own 10,000-step challenge for better health:

  • Get motivated: The rationale behind "10,000 steps" a day is very simple –– it's about staying motivated. Instead of viewing exercise as something to slot into a defined period each day, aiming to achieve 10,000 steps daily encourages you to keep moving throughout the day, actively seeking opportunities to add in some more steps here and there so that you accumulate steps throughout the day.
  • Purchase a pedometer. To keep track of your steps, you'll need a pedometer. These can be purchased as a separate item or you can find them in such items as MP3 players and even in some pairs of shoes. Choose whatever is most cost-effective and practical for your needs; pedometers themselves are fairly inexpensive. When selecting one, check how it clips onto your clothing or belt to make sure it's comfortable, secure and durable. 
  • Choose a goal. If you're just getting started, 10,000 steps a day may seem enormous. Just begin walking as much as feels comfortable to you, then aim to walk in increments of 1000 to 2000 steps more each week until you're comfortably at 10,000 steps a day.
  • Divide your daily walking between active walking and incidental walking and movement. The aim behind 10,000 steps a day isn't just about deliberate walking but it's also about how much extra movement you can accrue throughout the day. Look for opportunities to walk instead of drive as much as is practical.
  • Plan daily walks. Walking is an easy, enjoyable exercise and is a great way to stay engaged with your local environment.
  • Increase the intensity of your walks by doing such things as climbing hills, walking in sand along the beach, interchanging between fast and moderate walking paces and walking longer distances as you become more comfortable with walking.
  • Keep a log of your daily actions. Whether it’s with a digital app, computer spreadsheet or paper notebook and pen, a lot of your motivation will continue precisely because you can see the results in real form. It can also help you to see which days had reduced steps, helping you to increase the steps another day or to see any sliding back into sedentary habits that might be occurring.

Encourage the entire household to participate in a 10,000 steps a day challenge if you're concerned about the sedentary lifestyle of your family. Put up an inspirational chart for everyone to log their steps openly, and model the desired behaviour yourself.

Walking 10,000 steps a day is a realistic goal that is achievable by people of all fitness abilities, sizes and ages, so why not start your own challenge today!

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Mareike Bout is a qualified and registered personal trainer who specialises in holistic fitness and lifestyle coaching. She is a recognised leader in the industry, receiving the peer-voted South Australia Personal Trainer of the Year award in 2008. She is also a regular guest on Adelaide’s top-rating radio station FIVEaa. Mareike runs her personal training business, One Life Live Well, both online and from a private studio in Adelaide. Services include one-on-one training, outdoor group fitness, lifestyle coaching and weight-loss programs. Individually tailored programs encompass aspects of exercise, nutrition, relaxation, positive thinking, life balance, and goal setting. Her approach is to guide, support and educate her clients so that they posses the tools required to live a life of health, strength and vitality!