The Program: The
goal of taking 10,000 steps in a day is a rough equivalent
to the Surgeon General's recommendation to accumulate 30
minutes of activity most days of the week. Here's a simple
approach to reaching 10K a day. First, invest in a pedometer
(see where to get one, below). Put a safety string through
the pedometer's waist clip and pin it or loop it through
a belt loop, so the pedometer isn't dropped down a toilet.
Now follow the simple three-week program
below. The first week, don't change your life at all; just
learn your baseline average daily step total. Then, for
the next two weeks try to boost that average by 20%. Be
sure to follow the directions and fill in the simple log-it's
critical to helping you learn what adds steps to your day
and what detracts.
Reading an analog pedometer:
To read the two hands on an anolog pedometer, imagine that
they're the hands on a clock. The short hand is for THOUSANDS
of steps (like hours), the long hand is for HUNDREDS of
steps (like minutes). The long hand counts 100, 200, 300
steps, etc. When it has gone all the way around once (999
steps), the short hand will have just gotten to 1 (for 1,000
steps). The second time around, the long hand counts 1,100,
1,200, and 1,300. When it completes the second circuit,
the short hand is at 2 (for 2,000 steps). How many steps
have you taken if the long hand is about halfway between
the 7 and the 8, and the long hand is almost to the 5? Answer:
our printable steps log and use it to record your progress.
Week 1: The
goal is to measure your steps in a typical week. Don't try
to walk more than normal. Each morning, reset the pedometer
to "0." Set it to show steps (ignore distance
and calorie counts). Keep it closed and attached to the
front of your waist to the left or right of center. Wear
it all day from the moment you wake up until going to bed,
except when immersed in water. At night remove it, record
the number of steps you've taken in the log, and note if
you did any formal exercise (wear your pedometer then, too);
for example, "20 minute treadmill walk." Also
note if anything caused more (museum tour) or fewer (all-day
meeting) steps than usual in your day. Attach your pedometer
to your shoe if you bicycle and the pedometer doesn't seem
to count your pedaling.
Week 2: Your
goal is to boost your average daily steps by 20%. Add the
total steps taken in week one and divide by seven. Then
multiply by 1.2. The result is your new target number for
daily steps. So, if you averaged 3,000 steps a day in week
one, try for 3,600 a day in week two. How you reach your
goal is up to you. Most physical activity counts, including
formal workouts (a brisk walk, using most exercise machines)
and informal exercise (taking the stairs instead of the
elevator or even pacing on the subway platform).
Week 3: If you
haven't reached 10,000 steps, or if your goal is substantial
weight loss (for which many experts recommend 12,000 to
15,000 steps a day), then boost your steps again by 20%.
Calculate your second week's daily average and multiply
by 1.2. If aerobic fitness is a goal, try boosting the speed
of at least 2,000 to 4,000 of the steps you're already doing.
Many people find that just with two weeks of effort they've
gotten their daily step average close to or beyond 10,000.
Even if you only try for 20% more each week, you'll soon
find that your days are full of opportunities for more steps.
You'll also find that in short order you won't need a pedometer
to tell you how you're doing. For example, if you get off
the train a stop early or take a walk at lunch you know
you'll hit the total, but otherwise you come up short. But
use your pedometer whenever you need a step-check.
to some common questions:
How�d they come up
with the goal of walking 10,000 steps per day?
It takes roughly 2,000 steps
to walk a mile. In normal daily activity most people cover
about 2 to 3 miles, depending on how active they are. That
accounts for about 4,000 to 6,000 steps a day for reasonably
active people. That means they need to come up with at least
another 4,000 steps in a day to reach 10,000. That�s about
two miles worth, or for somebody walking at a brisk pace--voila--about
a 30-minute walk! So the 10,000 step daily goal is roughly
analogous to the Surgeon General�s recommendation to accumulate
at least 30 minutes of additional activity (beyond normal
daily life) most days of the week. Remember, the 10,000
step recommendation is your total accumulation of activity
throughout the day; the Surgeon General�s 30 minute recommendation
refers to additional activity, over and above normal daily
But there�s a problem with the 10,000 step goal. If you
happen to be someone who doesn�t take many steps in normal
daily life�working at a desk, say, or driving a taxi�then
you should initially adjust your goal downward. If you normally
average 3,000 steps a day, then your initial goal might
be to try to reach 4,000 or 5,000 steps a day. When you�ve
mastered that, work up to 7,000 and then eventually 10,000.
Bottom Line: 10,000 steps is very roughly five miles of
walking; it’s also approximately the amount of daily
physical activity that’s been shown to reduce risk
for chronic disease and an early death in large epidemiological
research studies. It’s a good eventual goal, but if
you’ve been fairly inactive lately (averaging fewer
than 6,000 steps a day), don’t jump right up to a
10K a day goal. Instead, use the "20%
Where do I get a pedometer?
Yamax digital pedometers, called Digiwalkers,
are recognized to be one of the most accurate and consistent
lines of pedometers. They can be found in many sporting
goods stores as Digiwalkers, or as Accusplit Eagle digital
pedometers (the same product with a different name). For
direct sales or for bulk pricing, contact New Lifestyles
at 888-748-5377; www.digiwalker.com; or Accusplit, at (800)
935-1996; www.accusplit.com. Accusplit also markets simple
but reliable analog pedometers; slightly less accurate than
the digital devices, but ideal for bulk purchases and as
prizes, since they retail for about $10. (Put a safety string
through the pedometer's waist clip and pin it or loop it
through a belt loop, so the pedometer isn't dropped down
Does bicycling count?
The beauty of bikes is that they're very
quick and efficient. But that means your energy expenditure
per mile can be much lower than walking. For simplicity
sake, attach your pedometer to your shoe, and let it count
the pedal strokes while riding. (Attaching to the shoe is
also an option for people who find that a pedometer worn
on the waistband doesn't record their steps consistently,
perhaps because of a high waist.) Counting pedal strokes
will result in far fewer steps than if you walked the same
distance. But if you think in terms of time invested (a
20 minute ride compared to a 20 minute walk), by pedaling
the whole time you can still get a similar number of steps
in for a given amount of time. If your count is low (say,
you get 2,000 steps in 20 minutes of walking, but only 1,000
pedal strokes in 20 minutes of riding), then there's a good
chance you're spending a lot of time coasting on the bike.
Focus on keeping your feet moving, just as when walking.
How far have I been walking?
If you want to know not just the number
of steps you've taken, but the distance as well, you can
calibrate a pedometer. The simplest way is to wear it while
walking a known distance, such as once around a quarter-mile
track, at your normal walking speed. Then multiply that
number of steps by four, and you know your typical number
of steps per mile. (For greater accuracy, you should walk
a full mile-four times around the track). Now, anytime you
want to estimate the distance you've walked, just divide
the total number of steps you've taken by your "steps
per mile" calibration. Keep in mind it's just an estimate,
because the length of your stride increases as you walk
faster. So, on faster walks you'll be underestimating the
distance somewhat, and on slower walks you'll overestimate
Some pedometers allow you to enter your
step length (based on a calibration walk) and they will
calculate your walking distance automatically. Fancier models
will even estimate the calories you burn if you enter your
body weight as well. But don't count on these calorie estimates
to be particularly accurate, given the wide variation of
fitness levels and personal physiology of individuals.
Jan wears her pedometer for a walk around
the quarter-mile school track-it counts 473 steps. She multiplies
by four, to estimate that she takes about 1892 steps a mile.
(For easier math, she calls it 1900 steps.) Another day
she takes a walk and covers 6,685 steps. Jan divides 6,685
by 1900, and gets 3.52, or about three and a half miles
To calculate a step length, divide the known distance you've
walked in feet by the number of steps you've taken. A quarter
mile walk is 1,320 feet long (a mile is 5,280 feet). So
Jan divides 1,320 feet by her 473 steps, and learns each
step is 2.79 feet long. Now she can enter that in the pedometer.