10,000 Steps. Why is this perceived “standard” of Fitness?

I’m sure you’ve heard it somewhere, theconcept of fitness summarized simply as 10,000 steps. Should you reach this magical number on any given day then congratulations you have won and you are fit, but should you fall short of 10,000 steps then the day is deemed as a fitness failure. But is the mythical number really the standard by which we should be measuring our daily fitness goals?

I would like to preface this by saying that I have nothing against thosewho strive to reach 10,000 steps in a day. If that gets you up and moving, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking farther away from the entrance, then keep it up. However, I really do believe that a gargantuan amount of importance has been placed on this, to put it simply, fictional fact. Why do we place such high value on this particular myth? Low and behold it seems to be derived from a human desire for ease and simplicity in what is normally a more complex and difficult task.

Walking is – in its simplest form- the most basic function of human movement. It takes very little effort for us to walk. We are equipped to do it,it requires very little energy and due to this fact it creates the least amount of metabolic reaction. If you’ve read any of my previous blogs, you’ll know that the key to weight loss and or building lean muscle tissue is to increase your resting metabolic rate (also known as your metabolism). So,if walking is so easy and does so little, then how does walking 10,000 steps transform someone in to a fitness guru?

It’s the same reason that a lot of other fitness myths continue to stay prevalent in exercise circles to this day. It’s the most dangerous claim to fame a myth can have, that there is in fact just a tiny bit of truth to it. Walking that much every single day will have some health benefits such as lower resting heart rate, lower blood pressure, etc. However, with that being said, don’t fall victim to this claim as many do, simply walking 10,000 steps a day does not and will not make you healthy.

That many steps a day is a massive commitment and when you look at the favourable returns you get versus all the other unfavourable variables that come in to play, it’s obvious that your time and commitment should be placed elsewhere in the fitness world. Some of you may see this coming, but yes I am yet again talking about resistance training and the best analogy I can give is as follows:

Would you rather work 12 hours a day every single day and earn $100 a week or would you rather work one hour a day for 5 days and week and earn $250 a week?

This may seem like an extreme comparison, but it is in fact fairly accurately summarizing the dedication needed for that many steps compared to the extremely low return you get for it, versus the time needed to complete an intense training session and the much higher level of benefits you receive in return. Anyone who has done a workout that consisted of squats, lunges, and deadlifts can tell you how extremely difficult it is. But how many steps did they take? Hardly any whatsoever. In fact, if all they did was squats, bench press, and deadlifts, they would actually take no steps at all during their exercises but yet still would create a much greater metabolic reaction than an hour of walking ever could.

What’s even more baffling, is that it could be argued thatcompleting just 10% of those 10,000 steps in a day (a mere 1000 steps!) could indeed be more beneficial. Seems a little off doesn’t it? But let me ask you a question, when was the last time you did sprints? I mean a full out, as fast as you can, sprint, non-stop for 100 meters, and then repeated that ten times?As a long time trainer I have found that having a client sprint is one of the most metabolically demanding exercises that there is. Putting your body under that much stress will in turn reward you with much greater health benefits than a full day of walking, for only a tiny percentage for the amount of “steps”.

There are a multitude of other examples that I could come up with but the point is this: walking 10,000 steps a day is not a bad thing per se, but if you think reaching this magical number will all of a sudden turn you into a pillar of health you’re in for a harsh reality. Should you decide to really get in to shape, always opt for the exercises high in bothquality and intensity,these will maximize metabolic responses.

-Adam Camara

February 06, 2020
  • Adam Camara
  • Personal Trainer