Monday, March 4, 2024

I walked 10,000 steps everyday for a month… and it changed my life

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I often find myself scrolling to the Health app on my iPhone to find out just how sedentary I’ve been, after a day at my desk. 3,000? Ok not the worst, but not ideal, either. 250? Yikes. I don’t need an expert to tell me that spending a whole day on the sofa binging MAFSA isn’t doing wonders for my body.

How many steps we should actually walk each day has been a topic of discussion for decades. But, through it all, it seems that one number has reigned supreme: 10,000. So, what makes that number so special? Not one to take things, shall we say, sitting down. I was determined to put this figure to the test once and for all.

What’s the deal with walking 10,000 steps a day?

The origins of this golden figure date back to the 1960s when a company began selling a pedometer shortly before the Tokyo Olympic Games. The pedometer’s marketing campaign was centred around the number and, when roughly translated, the name – Manpo-kei – means ‘10,000-steps meter’.

Clearly, Manpo-kei’s marketing strategy was a success, given that sixty years on, the number has stuck. Many fitness trackers – such as Fitbits – will encourage the wearer to aim for 10,000 steps a day, and various studies have shown that walking this much can have an array of health benefits, including a reduced risk of developing heart disease, cancer and dementia. Other studies suggest that hitting 10,000 steps a day isn’t necessary, and that even walking just 4,000 steps each day can reduce the risk of premature death. Phew, so even on some of my busier home office days, I’m still getting by!

With so many arguments for and against the 10,000 steps a day goal, should we all be striving to hit that magic number every day? Are there actually as many physical – and mental – health benefits as experts say? To find out the answers to those questions, I decided to walk 10,000 steps every day for a month. Here’s what I learnt…

10,000 steps a day diary

There are many reasons why the thought of walking 10,000 steps a day can be daunting, but for me, this has always been about time. How on earth am I supposed to fit in so many steps alongside my job, my social life and my downtime? Because of this, walking 10,000 steps a day has always seemed like an impossible feat, especially given that I work from home most of the week so my commute – which consists of walking from my bed to my desk – is pretty minimal and therefore, so are my steps.

Enter: the under desk treadmill.

Finally, the many hours I’ve spent on TikTok paid off, and under desk treadmills (also known as walking pads) were brought onto my radar, offering the solution to my time concerns. I didn’t think twice before jumping at the opportunity to test one out for this experiment, eagerly ready to spend my working hours walking. Surely I’d rack up those steps in no time!

How on earth am I supposed to fit in so many steps alongside my job, my social life and my downtime?

When the treadmill – loaned from JTX Fitness and retailing at £499 – arrived, I immediately noticed how big it was. “What have you got in there? It’s so heavy!” the courier exclaimed as he arrived at my front door with the packaged treadmill. He was right, the treadmill was heavy, and much larger than I’d anticipated.

Because I didn’t check the measurements of the walking pad – which, in hindsight, I really should have done – it sadly didn’t fit under my desk and instead was relegated to the living room. This meant that I wouldn’t be able to walk and work as I’d planned and would need to schedule walking time into my days.

I tried not to let this faze me, telling myself that I’d be able to fit some walking time in over my lunch breaks and could spend some time in the mornings and evenings just using the treadmill whilst watching the TV.

Week one

At the start of the experiment, I definitely underestimated how quickly I could do 10,000 steps. I’ve always been a fast walker – much to the annoyance of my friends who struggle to keep up with me – so I thought it would only take me about an hour to reach this number. Oh, how wrong I was.

After my first hour-long session, completed in the morning on a work from home day, I’d only managed 7,000 steps so I had to hop back on the walking pad at lunch for about 35 minutes to finish off the rest.

Given how much of a speedy speederson I am when it comes to walking, I do think I could have brought this time down had there been more speed settings on the treadmill. The JTX Movelight Walking Treadmill has six speed settings (starting at 0.5kph and going up to 6kph) and the maximum setting is described on the website as being a “light jogging pace”, although for me this was just a fast walking pace. Again, as I said, let’s keep in mind that I am a fast walker and that, for the average person, the six speed settings will most likely be enough.

Week two

Two weeks into the challenge, I was – for the most part – feeling great.

On my work from home days, I loved being able to chuck on loungewear and a pair of trainers (honestly, I couldn’t recommend lululemon’s Chargefeel workout shoes enough), head down to the living room and just start walking. This was such a time saver, in comparison to getting dressed and going out for a ~proper~ walk, and I was able to smash out thousands of steps before starting work, which really helped set me up for a productive day.

I loved being able to chuck on loungewear and a pair of trainers, head down to the living room and just start walking

On the days that I went into the office, I didn’t need to use the walking pad at all. My commute to work includes a 25 minute walk to the train station, which racks up about 3,000 steps, and this number gradually increased throughout the day as I spent time walking around the office (being sure to opt for the stairs instead of the lift) as well as going out for lunch and then walking home from the station at the end of the day.

Sometimes, I’d surpass the 10,000 goal altogether, especially if I had social plans in the evening or if I had a lot of meetings that required moving around the office more than usual. On other days, it was surprisingly harder to get my steps in than I expected, eg. the night I went to a gig and thought ‘this’ll be an easy win’ but ended with me frantically dancing about at 11:45pm in an effort to reach the goal.

As expected, my busy schedule did prove tricky at times, causing me to stress out about when I’d fit my 10,000 steps in. The solution often involved ‘making time’, such as getting up an hour earlier than I usually would, or sacrificing an hour of my chill-out time in the evenings.

    Week four

    By the end of the experiment I was, quite frankly, exhausted.

    On a daily basis, I didn’t find walking 10,000 steps particularly strenuous, but doing this every day consecutively for a month did take a toll on my energy levels. Some days, my body was shouting at me to have a lie in and all I wanted to do was, well, do nothing at all. On those days, I found myself struggling the most and the thought of walking 10,000 steps may as well have been a trek to the top of Mount Everest.

    Nevertheless, every day I got up and walked – whether I wanted to or not. Having the walking pad definitely made this a million times easier, as I can’t say for certain that I’d have finished the challenge if I had to actually leave my house every day. Yes, I’m a total homebody. No, I don’t feel bad about it.

    10,000 steps a day benefits

    Although for me this challenge wasn’t about losing weight, I did hope that my jeans might feel a little looser by the end of the month. Spoiler alert: they didn’t. Clearly, low intensity walking on its own isn’t enough if losing weight is your main goal.

    But, upping the pace when it comes to walking could make a difference. “Sometimes overlooked as a form of exercise, walking briskly can help you build stamina, burn excess calories and make your heart healthier,” the NHS advises. “You do not have to walk for hours. A brisk 10-minute daily walk has lots of health benefits and counts towards your 150 minutes of weekly exercise, as recommended in the physical activity guidelines for adults aged 19 to 64.”

    “Things like increasing the speed of your walking or the incline will increase the intensity of the exercise you’re doing, improving cardiovascular fitness and enabling you to burn more calories if weight loss is the goal,” adds PT and founder of fitness app WeGLOW, Stef Williams, advising that we should “try to incorporate other forms of movement for a wider variety of health benefits.”

    What’s more: working out is just one side of the coin when it comes to weight loss, and should be combined with a healthy, balanced diet.

    Whilst it’s true I didn’t notice any difference on the scales – who even cares?? – I did notice an improvement in my fitness levels. Towards the end of the month I certainly felt less out of breath after each walking session, and my glutes definitely felt firmer.

    As for my mental health, I found walking (especially on the treadmill where I could utilise the speediest setting) to be a great stress reliever. With every step, I felt as though I was pushing through the anxiety that had built up throughout the day/week/month, and helping clear out the negative energy that I was holding on to. I always felt lighter when I stepped off the treadmill and finally experienced those post-workout endorphins everyone has been telling me about!

    So, what did I learn?

    For me, this challenge was about adding more movement into my day-to-day life – which I certainly achieved. As someone who is really not a fan of working out, I wanted to find something that could help keep me fit but didn’t require sweating my ass off at the gym or lifting weights. To that end, focussing on increasing my steps was the perfect solution.

    Despite developing a bit of a love/hate relationship with the walking pad – as I said, some days I really did not want to walk at all – I was pretty devo when I had to pack it up and send it back. I promised myself that I’d order one straight away so that I could keep up with the new habit I’d worked so hard on creating, although it’s also worth noting that not everyone will be in a position to purchase a walking pad, as these cost upwards of a few hundred pounds. Thankfully, the great outdoors is open free of charge and, as the spring/summer months roll in, this becomes all the more enjoyable.

    By the time I sat down to write this feature – which was just under three weeks after completing the challenge – I still hadn’t got around to purchasing a walking pad, but reflecting on all of the positive impacts I’d experienced when using one made me realise how much I missed walking every day.

    Although I was still active on office days and at the weekend, my work from home days quickly became pretty (read: totally) sedentary and I noticed myself slipping back into my old ways. My stress levels were higher, and I missed the sense of achievement I felt throughout the challenge, too.

    With all that in mind, I decided to commit and order a walking pad – albeit one with more speed settings – and I can’t wait to start moving my body again, for both my physical and mental health.

    Excitement aside, I don’t think I’ll pressure myself to hit 10,000 steps every day. Life is all about balance and setting myself unrealistic goals will only end in disappointment. As Williams tells me: “Like anything, it’s not about being ‘perfect’. If you can’t hit 10,000 steps a day don’t be disheartened – it’s about finding a way of movement and a routine that works for you. Remember that something is always better than nothing.”


    JTX MoveLight: Walking Treadmill


    Chargefeel Low Women’s Workout Shoe


    This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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