Fitness gurus have been preaching for years that we should take at least 10,000 steps a day for good health. And with the popularity of Fitbits and other personal trackers, the quest to reach that goal has become an obsession with some people.
But new research shows that if you don’t reach that daily target, you shouldn’t sweat it. There’s an easy way to get the same fitness benefits from far fewer steps: Simply walk faster.1
The average American takes between 5,000 and 7,000 steps per day. Oregon State University researchers found that if the steps are taken at a brisk 100 steps per minute, you actually get more health benefits than if you had taken 10,000 steps.
Dr. John Schuna Jr. is assistant professor of kinesiology in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences. He is a co-author of the study. Fast walking for about 30 minutes five days a week is a good goal, he said.
You know you are going fast enough if you reach 3,000 steps in 30 minutes. It means you are walking at 2 mph.2 If you prefer biking to walking, 50 rpm (or 100 total pedals) is equivalent to 100 steps per minute.3
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The new findings were recently published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.4
Researchers analyzed data collected from 3,388 participants age 20 and older. Unlike previous studies which relied on self-reported estimates, this research used data provided by wearable devices.5
They looked at the relationship between exercise intensity and cardio metabolic risk factors such as waist size, blood pressure, glucose, insulin, and cholesterol levels.
Their analysis found that 20% of participants walked briskly at about 100 steps or more per minute. But even if this group did not hit 10,000 steps a day, they got the same or more health benefits as those who walked farther but slower.
No Fitbit, No Problem: Free Apps Work Just as Well
If you don’t want to spend $100 or more on a wearable tracking device, you don’t have to. A 2015 study found that free smart phone apps actually are more accurate than pricey fitness bands.6
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania had students walk on a treadmill. The students wore various step-tracking devices while also using a smart phone fitness app.
The fitness bands were inaccurate by an average of 23%. Smart phone apps were much closer to the actual step count. They were off by an average of only 7%.7
One excellent free app that we like is Lose It! It works on Android or iPhones. And in addition to charting your exercise, it has features that allow you to keep track of your diet.
In Good Health,
Executive Director, INH Health Watch