Why Does 10-Thousand Steps Mean Healthy Activity?

Why Does 10-Thousand Steps Mean Healthy Activity?

Pace yourself.

Do you know how many steps you take each day? You could be a 10,000 steps rock-star and not even know it!

Your neighbors stroll by with their FitBit; your coworkers get into a challenge at work, and even your mom is into it.

What is up with the “get fit” movement of 10,000 steps each day?

Is this the new standard for an active lifestyle?

Actually, the 10,000 steps movement has been around for over 50 years.

During the Tokyo Olympics in 1964,  Tokyo locals got motivated to work on their fitness and formed Japanese walking clubs. When the first commercial pedometer was introduced, it was sold as the “manpo-kei”, which translates to 10,000 steps meter (manpo = 10,000).

Japanese walking clubs now include sub-groups of pole-walkers.
Pole walkers should not be confused with pole dancers, which may also be good exercise… but different.

In more recent years, with the explosive popularity of fitness trackers, and the marketing campaigns to sell them, there has been a renewed enthusiasm for 10,000 steps as a minimum level of daily activity to stay healthy.

Why lucky number 10,000?

According to a study by the National Institutes of Health, physical activity levels can be determined based on the number of steps you take each day.

The study suggests the following:

Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14715035

Fear Not!

Initially, most people’s reaction to 10-thousand steps is to sit back down on the couch, already feeling deflated in defeat.

However, it is not as hard to achieve as first thought. The NIH defines 10,000 steps as beneficial even if they aren’t done in a single effort. If you work in an office, getting up from your desk and walking down the hall several times each day will add up to more than you realize.

And if you do have the time during the day to focus on your goal, 10,000 steps only takes about an hour and 15 minutes, at a brisk pace. The distance for the average stride is a little over 5 miles.

Need a 10,000 steps example?

Check out the results from Applied Health’s own president, Bill Evans. He has used a personal fitness tracker for over 3 years. For a demonstration, he chose a short hike in the neighborhood, recording the results as a real-world example.

Screen capture from Garmin’s iPhone App interfacing to Garmin VivoFit wristband. Blue-Purple lines represent accumulated steps by time of day *before* hitting day’s goal of 10,000 steps. Orange lines represent steps *after* goal is reached.

The image above shows that most of Bill’s steps were during the middle of the day. And, it also appears that for the rest of the day, he did nothing but sit on his butt.

However, the real takeaway here is how quickly you can add up substantial counts (and burn calories), even with limited time.

Burn baby, burn!

Great health benefits come from taking 10,000 steps per day, including the obvious benefits of burning lots of calories.

Studies suggest that cardiovascular risks and blood pressure are lower among people who take 10,000 steps per day. Countries with more active transportation, meaning people walk on foot or bike to get around, have a lower rate of obesity when compared to countries with mobile transportation.

Seems obvious, right?

Here’s something that may not be so obvious…

How does all this activity affect your weight-bearing joints?

10,000 steps is a great way to focus on moving your body and burning calories, but for those who suffer from joint inflammation and soreness, this much distance can have your joints hollering, “No Más!

Especially, your knees.

Consider this…

Research conducted at normal walking speed has conservatively estimated the forces applied to the knee joint with every step equals 2 to 3 times your Body Weight (BW)1,2. (It should be noted the estimates are many times more if you are jogging or running, or especially running downhill.)

For purpose of our example, we use the average of 2.5 times BW.

That means, with every step you take, your knees must withstand and support a kinetic force equivalent to 2-and-a-half times your body weight.

Since we know from additional research that the average weight of American adults is about 180 pounds (men are 195, women are 166)3, we can estimate the average force of impact on your knee as you step.

This equates to 450 pounds of force with each step (180 times 2.5 = 450).

At this point, your knees are saying, “See?! I Told You…

Now, here is where it gets interesting…

  • If you are “Active”, by the measure of National Institutes of Health and a gaggle of walking clubs (at 10,000 steps each day),
  • And, if you are anywhere close to average weight of 180 pounds (no offense intended),
  • The accumulation of cyclic, kinetic forces on your knees equals 4,500,000 pounds, every day (450 X 10,000 = 4,500,000).

To repeat… That is 4.5 Million pounds of force your knees are enduring each day you are Active.

Are you impressed yet?… There’s more…

After being fully loaded with payload; 

After being fully fueled;

After the flight personnel are buckled in their seats, and all systems are, “Go for Lift-Off“…

The Space Shuttle weighs 4.5 Million pounds!

Yeah, now you know why your knees hurt.

However, this new revelation doesn’t mean you should stop working up to 10,000 steps each day, and it’s not an excuse to choose a sedentary lifestyle.

Physical activity is vital to your health.  You must stay active to feel your best, look your youngest, and slow the effects of aging.

But this also means you need to be aware of the burdens you ask of your body, especially your weight-bearing joints.

Of course, making sure you have long-term use of your joints is Applied Health’s specialty; our wheelhouse; our reason for being.

And it is because one of our founders abused his joints so early in life that we have first-hand knowledge about the topic.

But let’s come back to that…

How to get started with 10,000 steps

To know where you are going, it is always nice to know from where you start.

It is handy to estimate how much you currently walk on an average day. It’s not required, but it is handy.

It is also motivating to have immediate feedback on your progress.

The market has no shortage of options for fitness trackers and simple pedometers in every shape, size, and price.  It is less important to select one that is perfectly accurate, and more important to have one that is consistent.

For instance, if your tracker is even 10% off on its step count, the next day should also be 10% off — in the same direction.  You really only need to track the relative differences from one day to the next.

It should also be noted, while 10,000 steps is a good measurement for tracking an active lifestyle, you don’t have to hit it to be healthy.

The Fitness Tracker pictured above is from Garmin. Wearable trackers include pedometer functions. Although the information offered by these devices is interesting, it is not required if you are starting out.

In the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes,

I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving…

Probably the best tip to offer anyone just starting out;

Don’t get going too hard too fast… But do get going.

Here are some simple ways to add more steps throughout your day:

  1. Park and walk – When going to the store or the office, park farther away than you normally would. It doesn’t take that much time, plus, an added bonus is fewer dings in your car doors, and it’s easier to find parking spots.
  2. Find a distant bathroom – While at the office, use the bathroom that is farther away than your usual one. Especially, if it is on a different floor.
  3. Take the stairs – If you do change floors, for any reason, take the stairs. It’s a great way to boost the heart rate.
  4. Find a remote oasis – Just like finding the furthest bathroom, when it comes time to refill your water bottle or coffee cup, set your compass for a distant watering hole.
  5. Schedule a walking meeting – Get your coworkers outside and collaborate on-the-go.
  6. Window-shop the mall – Instead of parking near your store of choice, park on the other end and tour the length of the mall… and back.
  7. Take the long way to the mailbox – Is your box at the end of your driveway?… Go out the back door. Is it down the street?… Take the long way around the block.
  8. Schedule a daily walk-n-talk with a friend – Instead of catching up with your friend each day by phone, schedule to meet in person and walk together.
  9. Shop for groceries from the perimeter – When you are familiar with your local grocery store, the tendency is to beeline to the items on your list. Instead, walk around the outside aisles and venture down-and-back the inner aisles to retrieve your products.
  10. Walk Fido – Got a dog?  Great! If not, consider getting one.  It is amazing how a happy dog will motivate you to walk a little further on your evening stroll.

Plan for the Long Run:

By now you know that increasing your activity level will increase your dependency on the joints.

If you are currently having joint issues that are limiting your progress, masking the pain or ignoring it will not improve the condition.

And if you don’t have any joint problems, you are fortunate.

If you are active enough and live long enough with gravity working against your weight-bearing joints, you will eventually experience discomfort.  Add in abuse or trauma, and you won’t have to wait as long.

Unlike that launch-pad that supports a space shuttle, your knees have the ability to repair themselves.

At least, that is true when you are young.

As you age, the supporting tissues that make up your weight-bearing joints gradually lose the ability to repair themselves as fast as you tear them down.

If you want to stay active for decades to come, you should consider supporting your joints with daily TLC.

Proper nutrition and stretching go a long way toward helping your joints when called on to support you every step of the way… 10-thousand per day.

What do your joints need to stay healthy?

Collagen type II, hyaluronic acid, and chondroitin sulfate are essential nutrients for your joints to help support your connective tissue and healthy mobility.

Way back in the 90’s (we call them the “early days”), well before nutrition became so mainstream, testing began on isolated materials in an effort to minimize the symptoms of osteo- and rheumatoid arthritis.  During that time, early observation indicated the surprising benefits of one version of the collagen protein… specifically, collagen type II.

Researchers agree that collagen type II does help alleviate joint ailments to help people keep living their active lifestyle.

In 1997, Applied Health first introduced CellRenew as the first product offered to the public made entirely from a hydrolyzed form of collagen type II.

In time, it was discovered one reason CellRenew was so effective was that it also included within the collagen matrix a high percentage of Hyaluronic Acid and Chondroitin Sulfate… both highly important in the body’s ability to rebuild joint tissue.

All these years later, CellRenew is still available as CellRenew STS (Soft Tissue Support) and CellRenew PRO (Same hydrolyzed collagen, but with the addition of Vitamin C and MSM, a sulfur compound that enhances the rate of tissue repair).

If you are committed to remaining active now — and many years to come — your joints deserve proper nutrition for the long-haul.

And, finally…

Keep in mind that physical activity doesn’t solely rely on 10,000 steps.  Switch up your routine!

Add in biking, swimming, dancing and strength training.

Integrate the activities that you love to make fitness enjoyable.

As your daily/weekly totals increase, you will feel better, look better, and soon be leaping tall buildings in a single bound.

Okay, maybe not…

But you will feel like a fitness rock star!


1 Darryl D. D’Lima,i Benjamin J. Fregly,ii Shantanu Patil,i Nikolai Steklov,i and Clifford W. Colwell, Jr.i; Knee joint forces: prediction, measurement, and significance; Proc Inst Mech Eng H. Feb 2012; 226(2); 95–102. http://pubmedcentralcanada.ca/pmcc/articles/PMC3324308/ iScripps Health, Shiley Center for Orthopaedic Research and Education at Scripps Clinic, USA  iiUniversity of Florida, Dept of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, USA
2 Darryl D. D’Lima, MD, PhD,corresponding author Shantanu Patil, MD, Nicolai Steklov, BS, and Clifford W. Colwell, Jr, MD; The 2011 ABJS Nicolas Andry Award: ‘Lab’-in-a-Knee: In Vivo Knee Forces, Kinematics, and Contact Analysis; Clin Orthop Relat Res. Oct 2011; 469(10): 2953–2970.; Published online May 20, 2011; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3171531/
3 Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Center for Health Statistics, Body Measurements (Data for U.S.), “Measured average height, weight, and waist circumference for adults ages 20 years and over”; https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/body-measurements.htm;
Human Body Weight, Average Weight Around the World; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_body_weight
4 Space Shuttle Basics; National Aeronautics and Space Administration; http://www.nasa.gov/returntoflight/system/system_STS.html
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