By Dr. Ira Shapiro
Director of the Plaza Chiropractic Center
Walking 10,000 steps or five miles a day has become a fitness staple for millions of Americans looking to stay active, get fit and lose weight.
A 2010 study of individuals participating in a 15-week, 10,000-step walking program showed improved cardiovascular health and psychological well-being. It can also actually burn 2,000-3,500 extra calories each week, which depending on your weight and walking pace, can result in the loss of one pound a week.
However, aside from posing an incredibly overwhelming task for many, especially those who are used to doing relatively little, 10,000 steps is a relatively arbitrary goal. Few people realize the concept originated in the 1960s with the introduction of a new pedometer sold in Japan. Marketed under the name “manpo-kei,” which translates to “10,000 steps meter,” the program was so successful it launched walking groups worldwide.
So, while 10,000 steps are far better than 5,000 steps or certainly no steps at all, people looking to quick start a fitness program or even develop a routine they can maintain over time should not obsess about the number. The point is that if it’s working and you enjoy the 10,000-step approach, don’t stop. The flipside is that there is no need to get caught up in numbers. There are far more important variables and things you can do to achieve similar or even more advanced results.
First of all, the true enemy is a sedentary lifestyle filled with endless portions of favorite foods. Some research has even referred to sitting as “the new smoking.” The truth is that your body, no matter the age, is not designed for long periods of inactivity. Prolonged sitting not only weakens core muscles and decreases flexibility, it also places far greater stress on the back as it works harder to overcome the inability of the hips, knees and ankles to carry their fair share of the activity load. Plus, inactive people tend to eat more. Regrettably, the couch, television and hunger are all often intertwined.
As an alternative, the American Heart association recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise (or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity). This can be broken into 30-minute segments performed five times a week. For instance, two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (brisk walking) a week, or one hour and 15 minutes of aerobic activity like jogging or running.
Of course, the level of intensity has a major role in this equation. The harder you work, the more calories you’ll burn, and the better the cardio workout. There is a distinct difference between taking 15 or 30 minutes to walk a mile. Unfortunately, peddling an exercise bike as slow as possible with zero tension will have little or no value no matter the time spent on that seat.
In the end, it’s more about what you do and how you do it than hard numbers. There is no instant formula for wellness. It’s a lifelong goal of trial and error. Do what works and what you like for as long as you can. When that stops working, move onto something else. There is no shortage of options for the truly motived.
For more information on creating better, fitter and healthier lives for the entire family, call the Plaza Chiropractic Center at 732-723-0023 or visit www.plazachiro.com. Our trained staff will be happy to work with you, no matter your age or condition, to develop a safe and effective wellness program that complements your life style and offers long-lasting fitness rewards.
Dr. Ira A. Shapiro is the director of the Plaza Chiropractic Center, which he founded in Old Bridge in 1984. A two-time member of the U.S. Olympic team medical staff, he has provided safe, gentle and effective chiropractic care to tens of thousands of patients ranging from community members to professional athletes competing at the highest international levels.