10,000 Steps per Day, Keeps the Doctor Away

It is no surprise to anyone that exercise plays a major role in prolonging life, reducing risk of chronic disease, and maintaining independence and mobility in our later years. However, somewhere between knowing how good exercise is for your health and actually doing some form of exercise, more than 50% of Canadians still can’t get off of the couch (or computer chair); does this sound like you? Health Canada recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity daily (at 65-74% of your maximum heart rate) which will result in a slight increase in breathing rate and body temperature.  Do you think that you are getting your 30 minutes of physical activity in everyday?

Recent research has shown that approximately 10,000 steps per day can provide the same health benefits/maintenance as 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity. So, if you are walking 10,000 steps during your daily activities (approximately 8-11 km depending on your stride length) you will have the same health benefits as if you were to go for a brisk walk or bike ride for 30 minutes with your heart rate around 65-74% of your maximum heart rate. Chances are, if you are working a desk job from 9-5 and you aren’t going out of your way to get physical activity everyday, you aren’t getting your 10,000 steps (unless you make a lot of trips to the copier).

10,000 steps may seem like an intimidating number at first glance, but to think that walking 15 minutes away from your house and then turning around and walking back will get you about 3000-5000 steps, over 10,000 should be easy, right? Still, most Canadians don’t manage to get in this many steps, and it gets worse as you move from Western Canada to Eastern Canada. So for those of you who find it hard to make time to go to the gym, I have a some suggestions for you…

Get off your ass (literally)

  • Sitting for prolonged periods of time (totalling over 6 hours per day) increases your risk of death by 40%. If you have a sedentary job where you spend the majority of your day seated in front of a computer, make sure that you are breaking up the long periods of sitting with short bursts of activity such as walking, stretches, or chair squats every hour to increase blood flow, improve energy levels, and reduce your risk of…well, dying

Walk more, take the stairs, etc…Get 10,000 steps per day!!!

  • It sounds stupid, and it sounds easy, and I’m sure you’ve heard it before. But for the love of god, if you aren’t going to go to the gym, or doing exercise at your house, attending a workout class, etc. JUST GO FOR A WALK! It’s really as easy as putting 5 of your favourite songs on your music device/phone and then walking down the street and listening to them. When those songs end, turn around and walk back to your house and congratulations you’ve exercised more than over 50% of Canadians and you’ve effectively reduced your risk for dying due to heart attack, stroke, diabetes, cancer, etc. Sounds great doesn’t it, so go out and take care of yourself.

For those of you who are having trouble getting motivated and have an issue with going to a gym with a structured workout routine, start by just trying to get 10,000 steps in per day. Walk 15 minutes down the street, and walk back, that’s it! That’s all it takes for you to be well on your road to long term health and improving your quality of life.

So, now that you (hopefully) know how easy it is to get Health Canada’s daily recommendation for exercise, how do you know when you get 10,000 steps? A great tool that I utilize with my patients is getting them to wear a pedometer (step counter) for a few days, from the moment they wake up until the moment they go to sleep, and record the number of steps they have taken that day. You can either go out and buy a pedometer ($5 to $40 at any sports or fitness store) or you can download one of many apps on your smart phone including Endomondo, Step Counter, Heart Rate Monitor, Moves, etc. If you decide to record your daily steps be sure to record any incident or event that may result in a lower/high step count than usual. For instance driving for a long period of time, watching a movie, walking to a destination, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, etc. will all have an impact on your total number of steps. It is very important to identify the events and activities (or lack thereof) that prevent you from getting your daily activity, so that you can be conscious of this and make the required changes to your lifestyle.

If you get anything from this article, I want you to understand that it is easier than you think to get active and live the life that you want to live. Being active can be as easy as walking 10,000 steps per day, and if you get more than 10,000 steps, try to increase your total by 1,000 steps/day or contact me and I can give you some great ways to further improve your fitness level and live the life that you deserve.

Get those steps in, and remember at the end of the day that this is your life, and ultimately you will suffer the consequences if you don’t take care of yourself. Make sure to look after #1!


Evan Ward, BScHK, CPT
CEO & Founder, DYNAMIS