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The Health Benefits of Walking

Walking is the simplest form of physical activity that humankind can do other than sitting and standing. No matter how old you are or what your health status is, you can almost always perform this exercise with or without assistance. The average American walks about 4,774 steps daily ranking them far below the average of other countries. There was one study conducted on Scottish postal workers who walked on average 15,000 steps or more and found that they’ve had normal waistlines, healthy cholesterol levels and lower risk of cardiovascular diseases. While the number of steps that the individuals taken in that study was high, the ideal magic number of steps that everyone should strive to aim for a healthier lifestyle is about 10,000 steps daily.

Why 10,000 Steps A Day?

This appears to be the magic number that is referenced across various organizations, online, and your fancy fitness app tracker tells you. This magic number originated back in the 1960’s from a Japanese company that started selling pedometers called manpo-kei which literally means “10,000 Steps Meter” due to the catchy phrase and a reasonable number of steps a human could possible do daily.

With the magic number of 10,000 steps being this old, how relevant is it for modern day? Studies have shown that not much has changed but what actually matters is how intense those steps are! You could walk 10,000 steps and not break a sweat meaning the physical activity was not intense enough or you could be soaked in your own sweat because you’re not used to walking so much. It is safe to say that the average American individual will feel the burn of walking 10,000 steps every day immediately as that is more than double their daily average steps.

10,000 Steps How Many Miles?

The average person’s stride is about 2 to 2.5 feet and by the time you add up to 10,000 steps that is almost 5 miles as every 2,000 steps are roughly 1 mile (depending on your height & stride). If you’re Canadian 10,000 steps in km is about 8 kilometres (again depending on your height & stride). If you’ve never walked 5 miles a day before this activity will definitely be hard on the feet if you’re not used to it! Therefore it is highly recommended that you take proper procedures for taking care of your feet before you begin this journey and reap the health benefits of walking. Otherwise, you can end up injuring yourself or cause harm that can be detrimental to your health in the later years.

How To Get 10,000 Steps A Day

Before you begin your 10k journey and discover the health benefits of walking you should visit your local shoe shop and get an accurate measure of your foot size! It is highly recommended that you have proper running shoes that you feel comfortable in when walking this amount of distance, otherwise you could develop walking pains or painful blisters on the feet. I’d personally recommend you to visit the local running shop and ask the sales associate some questions you have about walking and the different type of shoes they have available from various different brands and the technology they incorporate into their shoes.

Once you get a general idea of what type of shoes you like and the technology the shoe uses I recommend you to shop around for the best price! The reason being is because running shoe stores typically cost more unless you purchase the shoes during a sale or clearance where sometimes they won’t have your size. My first step is usually to visit Amazon to see if they have a better price compared to the shoe store and if they do I check out if they have good reviews from other users. Keep in mind everyone’s feet are different so read each review with a pinch of salt as some people may have bought the wrong shoe for their feet without testing it first.

Running Shoes Walking That I’d Recommend

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Beginner Walking Plan & Schedules

Once you’ve tried on the proper shoe sizes and purchased the proper footwear that is comfortable, the next step is crafting a walking plan and walking schedule. It is recommended that you create this walking plan to incrementally increase your walking distance and work on developing proper posture while walking to prevent injury. I recommend the first step you do is bring a water bottle and start increasing your daily walking distance by the increments of 2,000 steps every week.

If the average American takes just under 5,000 steps, the first weekend of their walking plan should be trying to increase their daily average to 7,000 steps for the weekend. This moved the needle from 50% of the magic number to 70%! You can easily find ways to increase your weekend average by taking an additional 1,000 steps to a park, down four extra blocks, walk extra 15 minutes one direction before turning back for the final 2,000 step. If you accomplished this with ease continue working on it throughout the week! Otherwise, continue aiming for 7,000 steps every other day until you develop the strength and durability for it on a daily basis.

Continue on this 2,000 steps incremental program until you eventually reach 10,000 steps. This walking plan should take about 3 months to accomplish 10k depending on how active you are and how athletic you are. The average person is most suited for a 12-week walking plan that increases their intensity every 4 weeks as their body adjusts to the tempo and increased distance. If you’re a complete beginner you might not be able to handle the increases every 4 weeks, so I’ve created a walking plan & schedule for beginners that help them ease into 10k.

Example of 12-Week Walking Plan for Beginners

  • Week 1 to 4 = Increase daily pacing by 2,000 steps over the weekend and continue to incorporate 2,000 extra steps throughout the weekday until the final week where you should be able to walk those extra steps daily comfortably.
  • Week 4 to 10 = Once you feel comfortable at the new daily steps, you can up it again by another 2,000 extra steps over the weekend. At this point, you should already be able to walk 7,000 steps without struggling as much as week 1. You repeat the same walking plan of walking more over the weekend and as the week progress, you should be trying to aim for 9,000 steps throughout the weekday. These are the toughest weeks to get through because we’re almost doubling the total amount of steps taken since the program begin. Your body will take time to adjust to this increased amount of activity and most people typically require about 6 weeks to transition fully from just under 5k steps to 9k steps.
  • Week 10 to 12 = Ideally by week 10 you’re able to walk 9,000 steps almost daily and you only need to add another 1,000 steps in the final two weeks. After you’ve walked more than 4,000 steps over the last 10 weeks, adding another 1,000 step is nothing at this point. You should have developed the confidence and correct walking form to feel comfortable walking another 5 or 10 minutes longer than typical to get those final 1,000 steps.

Use Reusable Water Bottles!

Before you begin your walking journey and start discovering the health benefits of walking, make sure you’re using a reusable water bottle and be environmentally responsible! A lot of times we opt for plastic water bottles out of convenience and because they’re cheap. However, that is not sustainable and is extremely bad for the environment! Our goal is to improve our lifestyle while also improving the environment, not improve our lifestyle at the expense of the environment!

Tips For Walking Longer Distances

  • Once you’re done working you should try walking home from your workplace. This can help increase your walking distance and even help provide relief from the stresses of your jobs.
    • If you feel comfortable you should try walking to work both ways! This provides an excellent opportunity for you to listen to podcast, audiobook, plan your day’s schedule while heading to work.
  • Instead of taking smoking breaks during work, you can walk around the neighbourhood and increase your steps that way.
  • Walking your dog to a new park! Not only will you get more steps for your daily counter but you’re also having fun with your pet discovering new parks and neighbourhood around your communities.

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