I’ve been walking 10,000 steps a day for the last three and a half months, and it has brought more benefits to my life than I could have ever imagined.
The Benefits of Walking
Walking itself is a powerhouse movement that brings people all sorts of physical and mental benefits. Regular walkers have lower risk for every major disease. And it appears that walking can help balance blood sugar as well as reduce cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Regular walkers are also prone less to depression and stress, and it appears that regular walking may contribute to greater longevity, creativity, and mental acuity.
Some of our most famous scientists, philosophers, and writers (like Darwin, Rousseau, and Virginia Wolfe) were regular and even obsessive walkers. They directly credited walking for helping them solve problems or create new art.
One of the amazing things about walking is that people can do it almost anytime and anywhere. It requires no equipment or even, in some cases, a change of clothes.
All the pictures in this post are from walks I have taken in the last 3 1/2 months.
Why Walking 10,000 Steps a Day is Awesome
Aiming for 10,000 steps a day can be especially helpful. It can help people increase their movement all throughout the day and become more active overall.
Recent research suggests that modern culture, with all its conveniences, has encouraged people to become increasingly sedentary. Sitting itself is not the problem, as recent Harvard researcher David Lieberman writes about. After all, even our ancestors sat a lot. But our ancestors also walked a lot—about five miles, it turns out, which is the equivalent to about 10,000 steps.
The problem is long stretches of uninterrupted sitting, which can lead to problems like type 2 diabetes. The benefit of aiming for 10,000 steps a day (which is about 4.5-5 miles of walking for most people) is that it can encourage you to incorporate shorter sessions of walking into, and all throughout, your day.
This decreases the amount of time we spend in uninterrupted stretches of sitting and helps us move more like our ancestors did.
My 10,000 Steps a Day Adventure
I jumped on the 10,000 steps a day bandwagon in late December.
I love walking and even have done some long-distance walking in the recent past. You can read more about this here: 10 Cool Things That Happened When I Started Walking Regularly This Year.
But recently I had found myself spending more time indoors and more time sitting. I wanted to get outside more but was having troubles finding the focus and motivation to do it. I needed a challenge.
One day I was reading online and ran across a 10,000 step a day challenge. (This is one like it.) I read this challenge soon after I had read the article by researcher David Lieberman about our ancestors walking about five miles a day.
Somehow, these two things ignited a spark in me. I purchased a pedometer, started walking and tracking my steps, and I’ve never looked back.
Building Up to 10,000 Steps a Day
Because I hadn’t been walking as much lately, trying to get 10,000 steps in felt overwhelming initially, and I had to build up to it.
So, for the first month or so—in January—I didn’t hit 10,000 steps every day. Rather, I would hit 10,000 steps one day and then have a few days where I only reached 5,000 or 7,000 steps.
But that’s okay. Researchers suggest that any regular increase in your step count can bring measurable health benefits.
I kept aiming towards 10,000 steps a day as often as I could, and after about a month, I found myself easily reaching the goal.
By the way, during this time, we had a big ice and snow storm in Kentucky where I live. I was able to get out a few days and walk but felt a little hesitant to do so in the ice.
During this time, I found some awesome walking videos on YouTube by a guy named Rick Bhullar. He is fantastic, and so are his workouts, and it would have been hard to get in my steps in February without his videos. You can find his YouTube videos here:
I was excited about hitting my 10,000 step goal regularly, but I was even more amazed by the benefits I saw from it. Here are eight of the benefits I saw immediately:
One: More energy
Immediately after I began walking 10,000 steps a day regularly, my energy increased.
Like anyone, I have natural dips in concentration and energy throughout the day. I started taking a short walk whenever I experienced one of these dips, and it would almost immediately increase my concentration and energy.
Two: Better Sleep
Walking 10,000 steps a day knocks me out at night. It seems like a paradox because walking gives me more energy during the day. But when bedtime rolls around, I am tuckered. I tend to fall asleep within ten minutes and sleep soundly through the night.
Three: Better focus
I go on two to three walks throughout the day. Those walks help me clear my mental cobwebs and then return to work and get things done. I feel more focused and clear-headed.
When I wrote this post, I was in the process of letting my hair go silver. It’s completely grown out, and I have learned so much from the process. You can read more about that here: My Two-Year Silver Hair Udpate.
Four: Increased Problem-Solving
I have discovered that I solve problems much better when I am walking. So now, I spend a good part of my walks thinking about personal or work issues I am trying to solve. The combination of being in fresh air and getting my heart pumping usually helps me figure out better solutions.
Five: Deeper breathing
Ever since I have started my 10,000 steps a day project, I have been breathing much more deeply, and my heart feels so much stronger. This helps me feel awesome overall.
Six: More confidence
I am so excited that I walk 4.5 to 5 miles every day. And a couple of days, I have even walked 10 miles. This feels like a big accomplishment to me, and it helps me feel more confident about striving for other goals in my life.
Seven: More playfulness
When I started trying to walk 10,000 steps a day, my husband decided that he would keep track of his steps, too. We usually report to each other throughout the day how many steps we have achieved, and we try to figure out different ways to get more steps in. We also go on more walks together. This has opened up new avenues of playfulness and togetherness that I really enjoy.
Eight: New Goals
I have been aiming for 10,000 steps a day for about three and a half months now. Sometimes I take days off, and sometimes I walk fewer than 10,000 steps. But I hit almost 10,000 steps every day now, and it has become fairly easy to achieve.
So lately I have been working on kicking my step count up to six or seven miles a day. I am excited about this new goal. I know that in a few months, it will become second nature to me, too.
You Can Do It, too
I am so excited about my step project, and it has brought so many benefits to me, that I want to encourage everyone to walk more.
Anyone can increase their step count and experience amazing benefits by doing so. By the way, even if you have a disability or are in a wheelchair, you can move in creative ways, and (if you are interested) there are charts that help you convert your movement to steps.
An Example of Paraplegia and Movement
For example, my mom has been in a wheelchair for over fifty years because of a spinal cord injury, and ensuing paraplegia, she suffered years ago in a serious car accident. My whole life, she has gone swimming weekly as a part of her therapy.
During the pandemic, her pool closed, and she started going on rolls in the local cemetery and doing wheelchair aerobics and wheelchair yoga to YouTube videos. You can read more about this here:
Her pool is open again, but she has continued to do her rolls and YouTube videos in addition to swimming. I am pretty sure that Mom gets in 10,000 steps a day and sometimes more because of all the creativity activities she does, even though she is paralyzed.
But you don’t even have to aim for 10,000 steps. The number isn’t important, although sometimes numbers help us focus.
Your Body is Amazing
What is important is that you realize that your body, no matter what, is amazing. It loves to move and play, and it is capable of amazing things.
Just start moving and keep adding to your movement. Consider setting a new goal for yourself. It could be a certain step count; a new skill you want to learn; or a certain distance you want to walk.
You can do it. Break it down into smaller goals and keep at it. Your body will thank you, and you will feel awesome.