by Dr Reo Miyoshi
As a guideline for physical activity required each week, the Australian government as well as the WHO (world health organisation) recommends adults (18-64 years) accumulate 150 to 300 minutes (2 1⁄2 to 5 hours) of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes (1 1⁄4 to 2 1⁄2 hours) of vigorous intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities, each week. (Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines, n.d.) (WHO guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behaviour, n.d.)
That equates to approximately 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity for the most part (5 days) of the week. If you are wondering what specific exercises are required to achieve these goals, they can range from simply walking for moderate intensity activity to going to the gym, playing a physically intense sport (e.g. Rugby, cycling, etc.), or running for vigorous intensity activities.
Benefits of walking
Walking is one of the easiest and the most economic styles of exercise that we can incorporate into our lifestyle.
Now there are many health benefits to walking:
• reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke
• manage weight, blood pressure and blood cholesterol
• prevent and control diabetes
• reduce your risk of developing some cancers
• maintain your bone density, reducing your risk of osteoporosis and fractures
• improve balance and coordination, reducing your risk of falls and other injuries
• improve our daily mood which cumulatively leads to better mental health
(Heart Foundation Walking, n.d.)
How much walking do you need to do?
So now you may be wondering how much walking you must do to get all these health benefits.
Nowadays if you own a smartphone, smartwatch, or both, you can easily check how many steps you have taken throughout the day as they have built in accelerometers allowing the device to work as a pedometer. Thus, allowing you to check the daily step count that you are taking. Daily step count is a readily accessible means by which to monitor and set physical activity goals (Kraus WE, 2019).
To set a daily step count goal for one to be active and healthy, 10,000 steps has long been a standardised goal to strive for. That is approximately 8km of walking a day which certainly may be a challenge to incorporate into a busy lifestyle but one that is not completely impossible to do.
But does that mean if you do not achieve that 10,000 steps a day, you are not going to get any of the health benefits of walking? Of course not. Keep in mind that this number is set as a GOAL for you to strive for, to be more active and achieve better health benefits as a result, by no means is it a minimum requirement or a cut off to be considered healthy or unhealthy.
There are many factors to be considered when making a recommendation for the required amount of physical activity for an individual. Everybody is unique and you must consider their age, their occupation, their fitness level and many more variables.
That is no different in terms of the recommendations for the steps/day required to be active and healthy.
Many research has been conducted with regards to walking as exercise and their health benefits in various population groups around the world. A recent study in the US by Tudor-Locke C et al. took the initiative to review multiple literatures to provide an evidence-based steps/day standard for health benefits in differing age populations.
The study separated the age groups into children (6-11) and adolescents (12-19), adults (20-65) and older adults (65+). The steps/day to the health benefits are summarised below. (Tudor-Locke C, 2011 Jul)
Now if after checking your daily step counts and you find that you are achieving the above number of steps/day that is great, it means that you are meeting the requirements to have the increased health benefits of walking and you can get additional benefits if you walk more.
If you find that you are not, but your goal is to be healthier than you are now, why not start off by striving to meet the minimum 30 minutes equivalent steps (approximately 4000 steps) or if you have that minimum steps, putting 10 minutes (approximately 1000 steps) of walking on top of the steps/day that you are taking towards these numbers. You don’t need to change things vastly; the additional walk can be achieved by small changes such as parking the car slightly further away than usual to allow more steps to the workplace.
Let us all take that step towards a healthier you in 2021 and beyond!!