Walking is a great exercise for both beginners and veterans. We just need basic sportswear and it can be as intensive as we want it to be. Whether we are walking for fat loss or for Healthy365 vouchers, “10,000 steps” is the magic benchmark number for walking.
However, many of us have sedentary lifestyles and may find it difficult to hit 10,000 steps daily.
In this article, we will look at how did the “10,000 steps” come about and I will also share some tips to hit our daily 10,000 steps.
Origin Of Daily 10,000 Steps
The 10,000 steps was actually born out of a marketing campaign for a Japanese step tracker by Yamasa Tokei Keiki Co., Ltd. They produced the first commercial step tracker in 1965 and named it “Manpo-kei”. “Manpo-kei” means 10,000 steps meter in Japanese. In addition to that, “Man” (万) also looks like a human in motion.
There is no scientific meaning behind their choosing this specific number but many experts agreed that it is a great benchmark for general health. It is a coincidence that the 10,000-step count is also a good number to try to attain daily for health reasons. The number is also easy to remember and attain for most people.
How Much Is 10,000 Steps?
Photo by Arek Adeoye on Unsplash
If we don’t track our steps, 10,000 steps might just be an ambiguous number that we have no concept about. Based on my experience, this is what 10,000 steps mean in other units that you can better appreciate this number. This will vary based on your pace and stride length.
|Time needed for 10,000 steps||~1 hour 45 minutes of walking|
|Distance of 10,000 steps||~7.5km|
|Calories burnt||~400 calories|
For the individual that goes to work at an office via public transport, the number of steps taken per day is about 4 – 6,000 steps. This is made up mainly of commuting to and fro from work and lunch.
For those that do work on their feet, you might get all of your 10,000 steps throughout your day without needing to add more steps outside their daily activities.
If we work from home and eat lunch at home or drive everywhere, we might only hit 1 – 2,000 steps maximum.
Walking 10,000 steps burns about 400 calories.
Tracking Your 10,000 Steps
We won’t need fancy devices like smartwatches and fitness trackers to track our number of steps. Most of us have smartphones and we just need to download a free app to do this.
If you own a Samsung or Apple phone, they will have inbuilt health apps (Samsung Health, Apple Health) that track your steps. My phone does not have an inbuilt health app so the app I am currently using is Google Fit.
We will be able to review the number of steps taken and decide whether to increase or decrease our activity levels for the week.
I recently noticed that I could add a widget on my home screen so I can view the number of steps taken for the day at one glance.
We will also be able to keep track of other statistics like weight and blood pressure on the app (not measured on the app) to gain better insights into our health. Google Fit has been monumental in assisting me to meet my weight loss goal. I am able to track my daily steps, calories burnt and weight loss progress. If I am not on track, I will be able to adjust my diet and physical activity levels.
Why Walking Over Other Forms Of Exercise?
Photo by Kitera Dent on Unsplash
Every exercise has its own benefits. Walking might not be as intensive or efficient for muscle building as other exercises. However, walking has its own set of benefits.
If you are not injured or suffering from a disability, you should be able to walk. Walking is something we have done every day since we were toddlers. It has one of the lowest, if not the lowest skill requirements for an exercise. The amount of experience we have walking is just a few months lesser than our entire time on earth.
Walking also has a low impact on our bodies, both for our joints and energy levels. If we had to go to the gym or jog after a full day of work, it can be very taxing or the thought of fatigue might even deter us from exercising at all. It is a very sustainable exercise that we can perform almost daily.
If we are injured or overweight, walking is also a low-impact exercise with a low risk of injury that can get us active and reach our health goals with low risk of injury. In our teens or early twenties, we can just walk off any injury and be good as new. However, when we get older, any injury can set us back quite a bit so having a low-impact exercise as part of our exercise plan can be helpful.
Low Effect On Hunger Levels & Good For Fat Loss
Walking has a low effect on hunger levels for me unlike other forms of exercise like weightlifting or swimming. After weightlifting or swimming, I usually feel ravenous and consume huge amounts of food. Self-control also seems to switch off as it will be harder to discriminate between consuming “good” and “bad” calories. I will just eat whatever is available. Getting in shape does not only involve exercise but also includes nutrition. In fact, nutrition is more important than exercise. We can never outrun a bad diet.
Even if other exercises are more efficient in fat loss, the increased hunger levels and therefore increased caloric intake might outpace the higher amount of calories burnt. It can be very disappointing if we keep gaining weight when we have been exercising so hard.
Walking allows us to be in a caloric deficit more easily if our hunger levels aren’t elevated after exercise.
Although walking only burns about 300 calories an hour, a fraction of other forms of exercise like swimming (~500cal/hr) or jogging (~500cal/hr), walking is still good enough for fat loss. If you have tried other exercises and have trouble reaching your goals, check out walking and see how it works out.
Low Investment & Save Money
No gym memberships required. Walking is free. We will just need some proper shoes. We can get a decent pair of New Balance or Asics running shoes for S$30 – S$40 from SAF eMart if you have access to it or the LifestyleMart at Chevrons Jurong or SAFRA Punggol. The shoes should last you about 2 years.
If you don’t mind, you don’t even need exercise clothes although they will make your time more enjoyable and comfortable.
We can also start walking anywhere for free, without having to travel to a specific gym or facility just to start exercising. We can walk for free in a park or nature reserve, around our neighbourhood, buying groceries or even in air-conditioned shopping centres. A step is a step. If we walk towards our destination, we can also save some money when we travel a shorter distance on paid transport.
When we have a walking outing with a friend, we can also save money from sitting at cafes and ordering expensive and unhealthy drinks while getting our exercise in.
You Can Do It Solo (Or Not)
No friends, no problem. Walking can be done solo. We don’t need a buddy to perform this exercise. There won’t be a need to check the availability of your buddy before setting a time and date to start exercising.
However, if you are able to get a buddy for walking, you can push one another when one of you gets lazy. Walking is also more enjoyable with a buddy where you can talk with each other and the time will fly.
Great For Mental Health & Focus
Walking does wonders for our mental health and focus. It allows us to clear our minds while walking. Walking can be done in auto-mode and we can let our minds rest and wander. Our minds should feel rested and less stressed after walking. For an even bigger boost, we can choose to walk in nature for greater effects.
When feeling stuck at work or studies, instead of sitting there and brute forcing wour way through, walking can also “untangle” our minds according to Barbara Oakley, the author behind “Learning How To Learn”. The book is an interesting one and there is also a free course on Coursera enrolled by over 3 million people that you can visit. To summarize, when we learn, concepts are stuck in individual pockets in the short term. These individual concepts can be made up of recent and past knowledge. We will need “downtime” for our brain to connect these individual pockets to form a holistic picture, giving us the “eureka” moment. These periods of “downtime” can come from sleeping and walking. We need both “uptime” of focusing on learning and “downtime” of allowing our mind to do its thing for better learning and focus.
If you participate in HPB’s National Step Challenge, you will be able to earn Healthpoints which we can convert to vouchers. By hitting 10,000 steps for 30 days, you will be able to get S$8 worth of Healthpoints.
|Daily Steps Milestone||Healthpoints|
|5,000 – 7,499||10|
|7,500 – 9,999||25|
150 Healthpoints is worth S$1
30 days of 10,000 steps can be converted to S$8 worth of Healthpoints
Can be converted to EZ-link credits, NTUC vouchers, CapitaLand points and others.
If you are up for it, you will also be able to clock another S$8 worth per month by hitting the MVPA milestones. MVPA can be achieved by hitting a higher heart rate that cannot be reached by just walking. You can check out more on the National Step Challenge website.
I personally didn’t join the recent challenges as the first few fitness trackers have poor quality and I don’t see HPB having a recycling plan for these trackers, creating huge amounts of electronic waste. I hope they can plan for the recycling of fitness trackers in future challenges.
If you don’t care about the points or want to reduce e-waste, you can just use your smartphone as your step tracker.
Tips To Hit 10,000 Steps
Not everyone has a spare two hours to dedicate to walking. If you have trouble hitting your daily 10,000 steps, here are some tips to increase your step count.
Walking Around During Breaks
Instead of just sitting around, consider taking a short walk during breaks from study or work. Go for a toilet break or just take a short walk outside our place of work. It will not only help us clock some steps, but walking will also increase our focus levels after returning from our walk.
Arrive Earlier To Appointments
If time permits, arrive 15 – 30 minutes earlier to your destination before your appointment. We can walk around the area to settle down and recce the area to get our steps in. If there is an air-conditioned mall in the area, it is even better as we can walk in a comfortable environment.
For those that always arrive on the dot or late because you wouldn’t want to “waste time”, now you have a good reason to reach slightly early.
If your friend turns up late, make use of the opportunity to walk about instead of just standing around.
Walking To Your Destination
To take it a step further, alight a few stops earlier and then walk to your destination. If we alight early enough, we will be able to shave a few cents off our transport fees. This will require some planning as we will need to account for the walking time to our destination and our sweatiness from walking. If you are worried about sweating, you can do your walking towards home instead of before your appointment.
After checking bus arrival timings, if we have more than 7 minutes, we can consider walking to the next bus stop too.
If we are game enough, we can just walk to our destination or home, skipping all forms of transport besides our own two legs. We will be able to save about a couple of dollars every time we do this.
Choose Walking As An Activity With Friends & Loved Ones
Walking as an activity to enjoy with our friends and loved ones is a great alternative to shopping or cafe-hopping. Walking is an economical activity that also keeps us fit. Spending time with our walking buddy can build relationships and also make time fly pass quicker. We will be able to clock 10,000 steps in no time. We can go on a hike and window shopping with our friends and loved ones.
Skip The Lift, Escalator And Travelator
The lift, escalator and travelator are tools to help us get to our destination with minimal effort. Whenever possible, if we skip using these mobility tools, we can increase our step count. On top of that, taking a step up a flight of stairs (0.17 cal/step) burn about 4 x more calories than taking a step on flat ground (0.04 cal/step). Stair climbing is also a muscle-building exercise on top of being a cardio exercise. However, I suggest taking the stairs up instead of taking the stairs down as it can be more taxing on our joints on the trip down.
After having our meal, besides increasing our step count, taking a walk can also aid digestion. Instead of just watching tv or surfing on our phones, why not just go for a walk? We will feel much better especially if we had a heavy meal if we go for a post-meal walk.
Instead of ordering online, walk to your nearby supermarket and purchase your groceries. This can add a couple of thousand steps every time we go grocery shopping. Also, instead of bulk buying, just buy what we need to increase the number of trips to the grocery store. Your groceries will be fresher and you will also reduce waste from unused ingredients.
Make Walking A Habit
Just like the craving for a dessert after a meal, make walking a part of our lives. Including walking as a part of our routine will allow us to get used to walking more and more. Once it becomes a habit, you might even feel uncomfortable if you don’t get your daily steps in.
Spreading Steps Over The Day & Multiple Days
We don’t need to walk all of our 10,000 steps in one go. Not many people can afford the time to walk for 2 hours straight. The 10,000 steps can be accumulated across our entire day.
Not only that, but we can also overload on the days we have more time and energy. We just have to make the average number of steps taken daily to be 10,000. For example, if we can only afford to walk for 6,000 steps on weekdays, we can load it all on weekends and hit 20,000 steps on Saturday and Sunday. However, if you are participating in the National Step Challenge, you will need to clock 10,000 steps every day to get the maximum points.
If you plan to do the full 10 – 20k steps in one shot, you should do some warm-up and cool down before and after walking.
Good Route Planning
Having a good everyday walking route can make walking much more enjoyable. Explore your neighbourhood and you should find a good route eventually. Here are some characteristics of a good walking route.
- If walking during the day, it should have sufficient shade.
- If walking at night, your path should be lit by street lights for safety.
- Our route should have minimal road crossings so we can keep walking with minimal interruptions and stopping.
- Go for fewer but longer rounds instead of more but shorter rounds. It can be less enjoyable if we keep going round and round the same route.
- Avoid routes that have too much human or vehicular traffic as it will be unenjoyable or routes that are too quiet as it can be dangerous.
- Look for footpaths that are not directly beside traffic. There should be some vegetation or the path is wide enough that cars don’t drive by too closely.
- Along our route, w can include a rest stop for short rests and fitness corners to do some static exercises for strength training.
- Our walking route shouldn’t be too far away from our homes or else it is easy to procrastinate. We should make it as easy as possible to perform our daily walks.
- Depending on our errands, we can include them in our route to maximize efficiency.
- For our everyday walks, we can walk around our neighbourhood. Nearby parks, park connectors and IPPT fitness corners will make great walking routes.
- For our weekly walks or walking dates with friends and family, we can choose from the myriad of the different nature trails listed on NParks and different heritage trails listed on Roots.
- Depending on our needs, we can adjust the intensity by choosing our route based on the difficulty of terrain, elevation and incline.
Walking Equipment & Prep
Here is a short summary of things you might need for walking
- Sports shoes (highly recommended)
- Can get from eMart or Lifestyle Mart (S$30 – S$40)
- Exercise clothes (recommended)
- Can get from eMart/Lifestyle Mart/Decathlon (<S$10)
- Small bag to hold your belongings
- Can get from Decathlon (<S$5)
- Water bottle
- Towel (optional)
- Wallet (optional)
As walking is such a low impact exercise, we can just use walking as our warm up. However, it is recommended for you do some stretching after walking, especially if you walk for 10,000 steps straight.
How To Increase The Intensity Of Walking
Want to switch things up or walking is too easy? Here are some ways you can make increase the intensity of walking.
- Increase the pace (brisk walking)
- Increase distance
- Stair climbing (easy access to elevation)
- Hiking (natural elevation)
- Nordic Walking (walking with walking poles)
- Rucking (walking with a weighted backpack)
These variations can also be combined (hiking with a weighted backpack with walking poles) to give you the workout of your life. As these variations are tougher, you don’t have to clock 10,000 steps. We can adjust it according to our needs.
10,000 Steps Is Just A Guideline
You should not go for 10,000 steps immediately if you are a beginner or don’t have the habit of walking for long durations. Start where you can and then slowly bring up the number of steps by maybe 500 – 1,000 each week to minimize the risk of burnout or injury. This is a lifestyle change and not a competition. Even if walking is low impact, if we suddenly go for 10,000 steps when we don’t walk often, we might get injured. Injury can set us back and it will take time for us to get back to our exercise habits. On top of that, it can be demotivating and break our routine and we will need to build that up again.
If you are unable to do 10,000 steps due to time or health concerns, don’t feel stressed to do 10,000 steps. It is just an arbitrary number. Just do what we can and see where we can go from there by slowly increasing the intensity or step count.
Doing 5,000 is better than doing 0 steps. Walking for 3 days a week is better than 0 days a week. Just because we think we are unable to hit 10,000 steps daily, it should not deter us from walking. Think of it as an achievement of improving your step count from X to Y instead of giving up if you are unable to hit 10,000 steps. Don’t forgo the forest for the trees.
Walking 10,000 steps is a good fitness milestone but it is not a hard and fast rule. Walking is a great low-impact exercise that is suitable for most people. We can adjust the intensity of walking by increasing the pace, distance or choosing different variations. We should not only start walking if we can walk 10,000 steps daily. Any progress is good progress and we all start somewhere.
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