For instance, can it really help you lose weight?
By now we’ve all heard that 10,000 is the ideal number of steps to take per day. But why that number specifically? And are there any actual benefits?
It turns out the specific number of 10,000 was popularized by a Japanese pedometer company in the 1960s. Since then, many claims have been made about the benefits of walking so many steps a day. One study from California State University shows walking more each day can improve your mood, energy, self-esteem, and happiness. Some calculations even suggest it’s possible to lose a pound per week by the calorie deficit created from walking 10,000 steps each day. Not bad!
My Goals and Expectations
I’m in the habit of walking to work most days. But even then, I usually only hit 5,000 steps. Still, Los Angeles has great weather and I enjoy walking as a time to catch up on podcasts and audiobooks. So losing a pound per week by simply walking a little more each day sounded pretty good to me—not to mention fairly attainable. After all, it’s just walking, right?
What I Actually Learned
It’s A Commitment
And honestly, a bit of a tedious one at that. The only day I hit 10,000 steps without thinking twice was during a visit to Disneyland. Every other day required constant accountability with myself and my pedometer. I took many lunchtime strolls around the block. I did lots of aimless wandering around my neighborhood, which is a bit awkward without a dog. Many nights I got ready for bed only to realize I was 2,000 steps short, and would have to change and go out again. On several occasions, while hanging out with friends, instead of sitting down and relaxing with a glass of wine, I’d pace around their apartment. It was effective but also stressful for my friends to watch.
The Importance of Proper Footwear
I consider myself a very sensible person when it comes to shoes. On weekends, I might dress it up with a heeled ankle boot, but I stick to Converse and Vans for normal weekday attire. These usually suit me just fine for the 15-minute walk to and from work. However, when I ramped up my walking to 10,000 steps, I felt betrayed by my casual sneaker standbys. I craved something with a little more cushion and arch support. But I also didn’t want to wear my neon running shoes to the office on the daily. If attempting this challenge yourself, I suggest investing in some cute but supportive sneakers.
Beware of Snacking
The thing about your physical activity and hunger is that one has a direct effect on the other. While I was excited about doubling my activity each day, I forgot to anticipate the overwhelming urge to snack as a result. I found myself craving little bites all day long, and the effort of taking so many steps a day made me feel more deserving of extra fuel. Also, after the first two weeks of aimless wandering, it became much more appealing to get my steps in by walking to a snack-worthy destination. Salt & Straw, anyone?
It’s Not Necessarily A Great Weight-Loss Method Alone
At the end of 30 days, I was shocked to see I HAD GAINED THREE POUNDS. Increased muscle mass? Perhaps. My body-fat percentage went up a measly 0.2%, but my waist measurement also increased by a half inch. This increase indicates that it was visceral fat gain (likely from all the aforementioned snacking).
To be sure, that’s not to say this challenge can’t help anyone lose weight. Just that walking 10,000 steps alone doesn’t guarantee any results—especially without monitoring your diet. If weight loss is your primary goal, anticipate that you’ll have some cravings. Also be prepared with healthy options to fuel you through your month of marching.
But It’s Great For Improving Mood & Sleep
Although I didn’t experience the physical transformation I was hoping to see, I definitely felt other benefits. I was in a great mood for most of the month. While getting my daily steps in felt a bit tedious and repetitive, it also gave me a sense of accomplishment to check off each day. Forming a daily habit of making time to catch up on the phone with friends or listen to interesting podcasts or audiobooks was a much happier alternative to sitting at home and scrolling on social media. I also slept so well throughout the month and found myself going to bed much earlier.
For those reasons alone, I’d still recommend this challenge! While I personally found 10,000 steps challenging to stick to every day, I have no doubt that there’s a happy compromise that’ll deliver all the positive benefits without overextending yourself.