Let’s start with the simple bottom line: Simply walking can provide some really great benefits. Striving to reach 10,000 steps per day may seem like a lot, but increasing physical activity in this way is both significant and attainable.
Let’s take a closer look at how you might benefit from increasing your daily physical exercise and reaching for those 10,000 steps.
Can Physical Activity Benefit Your Mental Health?
It’s easy to get discouraged thinking about exercising for weight loss. But you don’t have to push a 550-pound tractor tire through a parking lot to get your daily workout. You just have to do what your body was designed to do: get moving. Even if it simply means walking.
Not only can walking benefit your heart health and physical health, but it can also benefit your mental health and emotional well-being in various ways. Just remember, to reap a few 10,000 steps a day benefits, you have to take the first step.
In a recent study, 30 participants focused on meeting the goal of walking 10,000 steps each day. Those who successfully accomplished their daily goal were reported to experience the following mental health benefits:
- Significantly lower anxiety
- Lower measures of depression
- Less anger
- Fewer instances of fatigue
- Fewer feelings of confusion 1
Furthermore, evidence from the same study suggests that weight gain can often be associated with mental health issues like depression, low self-esteem, and body image concerns. 2 It goes without saying the benefits of walking and healthy weight loss can be quite meaningful to your psyche.
Counting Steps With A Pedometer And Meeting Your Step Goal
Why 10,000 steps? When you do the math it turns out that 10,000 steps every day can result in burning a significant number of calories. No matter your caloric intake, in one week of walking you might burn anywhere between 2000 to 3500 calories. Since a pound of fat equals 3500 calories, it’s possible you may experience weight loss at a rate of 1 pound a week — which is considered a healthy rate of weight loss. 3
This is all to say that considering your current weight and the intensity with which you walk your 10,000 steps, there’s the potential to lose a pound a week by adding 10,000 extra steps to your day.
Physical activity can do a lot to help increase the oxygenation of your blood and the amount of that blood getting properly sent to your needy muscles. So, you might be wondering how to actually count your steps? You can use an old school pedometer, of course. Or today, many phones contain the technology to count your steps as well.
It’s nice to know how many steps you’re actually getting in each day. But it can also help to track and record your steps as well.
Some pedometers only count your steps while other pedometers can actually track your progress. When you track your steps, you can challenge yourself to set micro-goals and beat your personal records.
What is the Biggest Benefit To Moderate Activity?
Most people are able to complete the simple physical task of walking. Even those who are in extremely poor physical shape can take a few steps each day. And if you simply start with an attainable goal — like 100 steps a day, you can grow the number over time.
In the same study mentioned at the top of this article, reports map out that those who accrued 10,000 steps a day significantly lowered their overall body weight, waist circumference, body mass index, and percentage of body fat.4
But walking can do more than just stave off weight gain and aid your weight loss efforts. Check out some of the other benefits that may come along with increasing physical activity.
Walking To Reduce Stress Levels And Support Quality Sleep
When you combine your walking efforts with other better health efforts, you might significantly reduce your stress levels. There’s a simple explanation: taking the time to walk means you’re also taking the time to think.
You can use your walk time as a time for guided meditation. You can also assign yourself a topic to ruminate over and try to come up with fixes for issues that are bothering you in your life. Or, you can let your mind wander and get your creative juices flowing.
When participants in another recent study combined walking with relaxation, their systolic blood pressure was reduced. 5
Moreover, the study suggested combining physical activity like walking 10,000 steps a day and making relaxation a priority could be effective as a short-term strategy for reducing your stress levels. 6
Basic Step Recommendations And How Much Fun You Can Have While Walking
The first step to making daily walking a habit is to take that first step. Of course, once you’re in a groove, you can focus on having fun. Also, here’s a good tidbit of inspiration: walking is among the most sustainable exercises you can do. When people look for exercise routines, they tend to stick to walking more than they stick to other types of exercise.
10,000 steps every day is the basic recommendation here. Because 10,000 steps are attainable and challenging, you can more easily make this a daily habit. And simply getting to cross 10,000 steps off your daily to-do list will feel good.
That’s positive reinforcement, which will likely inspire you to repeat the activity tomorrow. Before you know it, walking could be habitual for you. So much so that you begin to crave your daily walk time.
The next time you need to go to the post office or meet a friend for coffee, try walking to your destination. Even parking in the back of the parking lot to maximize your steps will help you hit the 10,000 steps mark.
And if you want to enhance the level of fun on your walks, invite a friend (and make sure to bring the dog). You can also listen to a great podcast or your favorite movie soundtrack. Switch up your walking locations, too. Walk lakeside one day and follow a forest trail the next day. You can choose your favorite neighborhood, too — the one where you love the architectural details of the houses.
Up Your Step Count For The Long Haul
In the end, walking can give you a great chance to create and enjoy a healthier lifestyle. The learning curve for walking is pretty flat — you likely already know how to do it. You don’t have to buy any fancy equipment or clothes. All you have to do really is get up and get out. You can do that.
Walking outside when you can is even better than the treadmill. You’ll be able to reboot your mind midday and your skin can drink of the Vitamin D it needs while you’re out.
So, download your favorite album, grab a friend you haven’t seen in weeks, or focus on a meditative experience — whichever way you choose to make walking fun, if you get into a routine you’ll experience lovely benefits and likely come to cherish your daily 10,000 steps.