The New Year always brings well-intentioned plans and goals to get moving and be more active. Hopefully your good intentions are still at the forefront of your mind. Most people want to be healthy, get healthy, stay healthy and we all know that physical activity is an important part of that. The benefits of exercise for both our physical health and mental health are well known. Somehow many of us have a hard time finding that motivation to stick to an exercise program. What you do is a personal decision and very important to find that thing that you enjoy. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as it gets you moving!
But there is the question about how much is enough? Over the past few years there has been a lot of focus on 10,000 steps. So where did that number come from and what does it really look like to take 10,000 steps? A Google search will quickly tell you that this number of 10,000 steps started in Japan in the 1960’s for marketing purposes for a new pedometer. There was no rationale related to health. It just seemed like a good number. And maybe it is….for many of us. Walking 10,000 steps is roughly the equivalent of walking for an hour or approximately 5km. This seems like a very reasonable goal for many of us. This number of 10,000 steps also fits in with the Canadian Guidelines for Physical activity of 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week for adults. For children the recommendations are more at 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity on a daily basis.  So what do your 10,000 steps look like? As the guidelines suggest, to get the most health benefits from our activity we do need to increase our heart rate as we exercise rather than just a casual stroll or walking on the job. Not to say that this is not beneficial because it is. The more we are moving no matter the intensity means that we are sitting less!
There is no doubt that we will see more ongoing research about how much activity is enough with more about how many steps are beneficial for health. Activity trackers have become very commonplace and with this ability to track how many steps and how far people are walking will certainly give more information to researchers rather than reports from people about how many minutes they are exercising for. Some of these activity trackers are becoming quite sophisticated with the ability to track your steps, stairs climbed, distance travelled, and other activities such as cycling, indoor trainers and swimming. They also monitor heart rate and can tell you how much time you have spent in the range needed for moderate to vigorous activity! As long as you don’t get too obsessed with this it can be a great tool to really let you know what you are doing and a means for making and tracking your goals.
Whether you choose to use an activity tracker or just the old fashioned way of timing your activity whether it is a walk, run or bike ride, take the time to evaluate whether you are active enough and set some goals to help improve your health. Talk to your doctor and/or your physiotherapist to help determine what goals are appropriate for you! Depending on your physical or medical status 10,000 steps may not be right for you. Or perhaps walking is not the best form of physical activity for you. Work with someone who knows and understands your health issues to help you establish what form of exercise/activity is best for you! Discuss with your doctor and/or physiotherapist about how to increase to your goal. Make sure your progression of activity is appropriate. Increasing our activity level too quickly can lead to muscle aches and pains. We also want to be kind to our body. After all it is the only one we have. So lets take care of it and get moving! Start with a little bit of activity and you may be surprised about how good you feel!