You've heard a million and one times that you should move more. Carving out entire blocks of time dedicated to working out sounds nice in theory, but hard to consistently fit into your schedule.
These days you're cooped up inside and ready to get out. Summer's just around the corner and the good weather calls.
Gyms are closed, but that's okay. You don't need them to get into shape, stave off illness, look great, or feel healthy (though you can get even faster results using this technique). Today we'll cover 21 benefits of walking 10,000 steps every day (or more).
How Much Do You Walk?
Grab your phone and open the Health app. Scroll down and click “Show All Health Data”. Click into steps and select Year at the very top of the screen.
That's your average step count over the last year.
How does it look?
There's nothing particularly special about 10,000 steps per day. It's a nice, round number to shoot for.
And if you use a treadmill, you might want to go for slightly more.
Treadmill Doesn't Count
Ever notice that running on a treadmill doesn't carry over to real running?
That's because it is mechanically different:
- Ground running has three components: foot strike, push-off, and then a recovery stroke.
- Treadmill running has only two: foot strike, and then a recovery stroke
That one difference in stride may seem small, but it makes a huge difference. Think of it as missing out on a third of the run.
Why should you make an extra effort to walk more?
1. Builds Baseline Fitness
Getting to 10,000 steps takes time. The easiest way is to move more often throughout the day.
Walking may not feel like exercise, but moving often is a micro workout that sends a powerful signal to your brain and body to grow. Over a year this adds up to hundreds of additional cardiovascular-boosting miles.
2. Frees Time for Reflection
I have a hard time taking a pause from technology.
I easily fill my time, ears, and eyes with stimulation. You can listen to audiobooks, podcasts and even read books while walking, but a nice walk provides the perfect opportunity to reflect.
3. Boosts Your Brain
Walkers have better brains.
Moving often stimulates a brain chemical called BDNF, dubbed miracle-grow for the brain. The sensory input from your environment also improves your ability to learn and access the new information.
4. Less Back Pain And Better Posture
Short walks have their pros.
Movement specialist Erin Palinski-Wade describes walking as an ideal way to improve posture which leads to less back pain.
When I upped my mileage I paid closer attention to my posture to avoid a sore back. It improved over time.
5. Builds Muscle & Stabilization
How many muscles do you think you use to walk?
Far more than you realize.
ACE found that you use around 200! Many of these are small stabilizers that get less attention from big, ambitious workouts. Walking strengthens your otherwise weak links making you more resilient.
6. Stabilizes Your Blood Sugar
Your blood sugar deserves attention.
Instead of going for drugs, supplements, or other compounds to keep blood sugar stable, go for a walk. A win for living a long time.
A quick walk after a meal can prevent the wave of sleepiness.
7. Helps Lower Blood Pressure
You can expect three to five point blood pressure drops from walking. Your heart will also thank you.
8. Boosts Flexibility
Stretching isn't your only option to improve flexibility.
Bringing your muscles through the complete range of motion builds flexibility over time. You think nothing of it, but the interaction between your calves, legs, core, arms, and heads takes coordination.
I had a tight lower back from years of heavy squats, deadlifts, and sprints. Walking activates and stretches the muscles and ligaments which loosened my back.
9. Greater Energy Than Espresso
Ditch the nootropics and espresso. For energy, look no further.
Moving for a few minutes floods your body with oxygen-rich blood. When I'm feeling sleepy, moving around gets me back in the zone.
10. Improves Your Mood
Ever hear the phrase “walk it out”?
Probably because walking increases joviality, vigor, attentiveness and self-confidence. Even the powerful doubt of “nocebo” (negative placebo) couldn't bring down the participants' moods.
An easy, and effective means of boosting your mood.
11. Longer Lifespan
Walkers live longer.
150 minutes of brisk walking per week can add over three years to your health-span.
If you hit 10,000 steps per day you'd have a hard time not meeting that threshold. Walk an hour per day and you may live an extra 7.5 percent longer and spend less on medical bills.
12. Greater Creativity
Indoors or outdoors, move to groove.
People anecdotally claim to do their best creative thinking while walking,
Findings out of Stanford confirm that across the board, creativity levels were consistently and significantly higher for walkers. Your creative genius persists after you sit back down too.
13. Burns Fat
Walking may not burn tons of calories, but there's a reason bodybuilders use walking for weight loss.
You get to tap into stored body fat when you walk in a low-insulin state. Using fat for fuel is a great way to break past plateaus and a part of my daily routine.
It should come as no surprise then that subjects walking 10,000 steps per day often lose ten pounds each.
14. Reduces Stress
We could all use some natural stress reduction.
15. Strengthens Heart
Your heart loves activity.
There's a reason that all health agencies recommend physical activity to stave off cardiovascular problems… it works.
Don't have time or worried about the negative consequences of running? No need. Walk 10,000 steps and you'll be in the clear.
16. Improves Sleep
Having trouble with your sleep?
How you sleep comes down to two primary factors: quality and quantity.
I've had a hard time working on sleep quality. My sleep quality has improved with low-impact activity like walking.
17. Sharper Memory
Before you spend your day on brain training apps, lace up your shoes (preferably minimalist shoes) and get out there.
You'll improve neural connections in the brain and better distinguish between similar memories in as little as 10 minutes of walking per day. A slow pace is fine.
18. Increases Vitamin D Levels
When did you last log serious time outside?
Vitamin D isn't just another vitamin. Experts consider its importance similar to that of a hormone. Between our indoor lifestyle, and the use of sunscreen we quickly develop deficiency.
19. Exposes You To Nature
There's more to getting outside than vitamin D.
Spending time around trees, plants, and dirt builds a strong microbiome. Nature also soothes you with geometric patterns conducive to mood-boosting and stress-busting.
You will also find walking in natural environments reduces anxiety.
20. Build Successful Habits
Building healthy habits feels good.
Doing one thing, no matter how small, can act as the lead domino in a chain.
That's where walking fit in. As your lead domino.
You can use your heightened energy, better mood, and greater state of mind to add additional habits.
21. Curbs Cravings
When I'm deep into a multi-day fast, walking keeps me sane.
Hunger comes and goes in waves. A short walk does two things:
- Keeps cravings at bay, especially the temptation to grab sugary treats.
- Removes you from environments full of snacks
Set Your New Movement Goal
I recently met a man that walks fifteen miles every single day. That's over a half-marathon!
I Instantly felt the need to increase my daily goal in competition. I took a mental step back and reflected on the ridiculousness of it all. There's no reason to compare me to him. Our lives are totally different. If he inspired me to walk more, that's one thing. But I don't need to one-up him.
It's my trend that matters. I've increased my steps and now remain steady. It has become an ingrained habit. I walk quite a bit so I upgraded to “barefoot” shoes and haven't looked back.
Evaluate your own trend. Not hitting some magical number of steps daily? It's okay.
Just adding 100 steps to your daily average is going in the right direction. You'll find it gets easier with time.
Then eventually, you'll be nicely set up to transform your walks into the ultimate cardio and strength training hack.