The idea of aiming for 10,000 steps a day isn’t new, but where did that figure come from? The concept started in Japan in the 1960s, when walking clubs tried to get more people up and moving. Concerned about a rise in obesity rates, Dr. Yoshiro Hatano and a group of researchers discovered that the average person took between 3,500 to 5,000 steps a day. But they concluded that if that total could be increased to 10,000, then people could burn an extra 20 percent of their daily caloric intake a day and be healthier and slimmer.
Still, as admirable as the goal is, the number doesn’t necessarily take into account a person’s cardiovascular health, says Austin Johnson, a Gold’s Gym personal trainer.
If you’re just getting started, 10,000 steps could be an overwhelming goal, but if you’ve been hitting the gym for a while, it could be underwhelming. While every step counts, so does every heartbeat, says Johnson. So, if you’re looking to get optimal benefits from 10,000 steps a day, it’s important to do them at the pace that’s right for your fitness level. No matter which level that is, here are a few tips.
1. Walk tall
Don’t forget to focus on your posture, Johnson says. Don’t lean back and don’t lean forward. You want to be standing upright with your shoulders back but relaxed. Try not to move your hips from side to side. Keep your feet pointed forward. “If your feet point outward or inward, there are definitely issues that need to be addressed, but they can be fixed easily with the right kind of strengthening and stretching,” Johnson says. A Gold’s Gym personal trainer can help.
2. Walk at a moderate intensity
For best results, walk at a pace that works your heart without overdoing it. You can do this by walking at a speed that achieves your target heart rate. To calculate that figure, first subtract your age from 220. That number is your maximum heart rate, the highest number of times your heart should beat per minute during exercise. Your target heart rate for moderate intensity activity, according to the American Heart Association and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is 50–70 percent of your maximum heart rate. For any questions about your heart, consult your doctor.
If you’re planning to get your 10,000 steps in one workout at Gold’s Gym, you can use the heart rate monitor on one of the elliptical or treadmill machines to make sure you’re staying in the moderate intensity range.
Try a wearable fitness tracker. Many have a built-in heart rate monitor that can show when you are falling in within that range as well as track your steps.
3. Consider breaking it up
If 10,000 steps at once doesn’t sound achievable, try taking two or three short 10-minute walks at a brisk pace. Think in terms of short bursts of walks throughout the day. Try to walk fast enough to hit your target heart rate and keep it there for no less than 10 minutes at a time. Pace-wise, you want to walk fast enough that you have breath to talk, but not to sing.
4. AMP it up
There are several walking workouts in GOLD’S AMP™, the new digital personal training app from Gold’s Gym, that are specifically designed to get the most out of every step. The offerings range from the low intensity outside workout Walk It Off with Coach Anna to the high intensity treadmill workout Dead Mill Walking with Coach Ally. GOLD’S AMP™ was created so that everyone can use it. (Download from the App Store or Google Play to sample one of these workouts with a free trial.)
5. Listen to music
Ongoing studies prove that music keeps people motivated during exercise. Plus, many people don’t reach their step goals because it just isn’t any fun. GOLD’S AMP™ uses music along with in-ear coaching to keep you moving — and motivated — whether you’re walking outdoors, on the treadmill or on an elliptical machine.
6. Don’t sweat the sweat
Sweating isn’t always a good indicator of whether you got in a good workout. Some people sweat a lot, but some people don’t sweat much at all. Sweating is dependent upon climate, age, gender and fitness. Bottom line: Don’t let the amount you sweat be the judge of your workout. If you completed your steps (about 5 miles) for the day in the correct target heart rate range, give yourself a high five!
7. Try new ways to sneak in steps
Ready to up your step count? Challenge yourself to incorporate these tips into your day to get more steps in.
- Wake up a little early and take a 10-minute walk.
- Skip the elevator and take the stairs.
- Work in an office? Save an email and take a “walking meeting.”
- Go for a walk during your lunch break.
- When you feel like grabbing a snack – take a walk. Sometimes it’s a better energy boost than something sugary.
- Add steps during your everyday errands – for example, park far away from the grocery store entrance so you must take extra steps.
- Skip happy hour and go for a walk to catch up with your friends.
- Spend one hour working in your garden or mowing the grass.
- Go for a walk by yourself after work to release some energy.