This May is National Walking Month and if you're interested in health and wellbeing, you've probably come across the idea of walking 10,000 steps a day. After all, the concept has been around for a while. And with the increasing popularity of wearable fitness trackers, it's as relevant as it's ever been. So let's help you achieve 10,000 steps a day.

Why 10,000 steps?

But why is 10,000 steps the goal? According to a BBC article, it's believed the notion of 10,000 steps started in Japan during the preparations for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. With the population gripped by Olympics fever, pedometers - devices that count how many steps you take - became very popular, as health-conscious Japanese people started keeping track of their activity levels.

One Japanese pedometer manufacturer came out with a device called manpo-kei - which means 10,000 steps. The idea took off, and despite being a rather arbitrary figure, 10,000 steps became the standard for daily fitness, not just in Japan but around the world. It was only in later studies that it was found that taking 10,000 steps a day may well be related to health benefits, such as lower blood pressure, better blood glucose levels and improved mood. 

Yet most of us aren't reaching anything near 10,000 steps a day. According to the NHS the average British person walks between 3,000 and 4,000 steps a day. Indeed, 10,000 steps - depending on the length of your stride - is about the equivalent of walking about 5 miles, which may sound like an awful lot if you're not particularly active.

Start slowly

If you're new to exercise 10,000 steps may be too much to begin with and you may want to build up your fitness gradually. If this is the case it's a good idea to aim for, say, 4,000 steps a day to begin with, then add a thousand extra steps each week until you reach the magic 10,000. 

Everyday activities

If you're a busy professional, you may be wondering where you're going to find the time to put in 5 miles of walking a day. The good news is there are lots of ways to boost your step count, and they don't all involve walking, as other activities can count too. Even things you may not think of as exercise can add to your daily step count including gardening, housework and shopping

There are also lots of small ways to notch up more steps. At work, for instance, you could use a kitchen on another floor when it's time for a tea break. Try counting how many steps you take walking to the kitchen, including the stairs. There's a good chance it could be as high as 100. So if you did that just 3 times a day, it's 300 steps towards your goal. 

Setting a reminder on your desktop computer or your phone to get up from your desk and walk around the office every hour could also boost your step count. Again, count how many steps you take and work out your daily total.

Fitness trackers and step counters

You may be asking at this point, do I need a pedometer or a fitness tracker to count my steps? When you're first starting out these devices can be very useful when calculating your steps in a day and they can even help boost your motivation.

If you don't want to purchase a fitness tracker or step counter, you may be able to use your smartphone to count your steps by downloading a walking app or step tracker. However, neither of these options are essential. If you have a good idea of how many steps you take doing everyday activities you can easily do your own calculations.

Activities to reach 10,000 steps

To help you work out what you have to do achieve 10,000 steps, here's a quick guide to activities you can easily fit into your everyday routine and the number of steps you can achieve per minute by doing them, including non-walking activities (all step counts are approximate):

Activity Average steps per minute
Walking (moderate pace) 100
Walking (fast pace) 130
Moderate gardening (e.g. weeding) 73
Heavy gardening (e.g. digging) 155
Mowing the lawn / raking 135
Housework (vacuuming) 90
Housework (mopping) 85
Housework (scrubbing the floor) 140
Housework (window cleaning) 75
Food shopping 60
Dancing (slow) 55
Dancing (fast) 175
Washing the car 75
Waxing the car 100
Cycling (5mph) 55
Cycling (10mph) 93
Cycling (15mph) 160
Cycling (20mph) 200
Bowling 55
Golfing (walking, no cart) 100
Playing tennis (singles) 160
Playing tennis (doubles) 110
Playing ping pong 90
Playing football (casual) 207
Swimming (front crawl, 1mph) 91
Swimming (front crawl, 2mph) 156
Zumba 152

What could 10,000 steps look like?

Knowing the approximate number of steps you take per minute doing everyday activities can help you calculate exactly what you need to do to reach 10,000, not just occasionally but every day. 

Without taking into account the number of steps you may take at work by sitting less and taking regular breaks to move around, here's a simple example that comes to 9,600 steps - just 400 steps short of your goal: 

Activity Steps
Walking to work (15 minutes) 1,500 steps
Taking a walk at lunchtime (30 minutes) 3,000 steps
Walking home (15 minutes) 1,500 steps
Shopping for groceries for dinner (10 minutes) 600 steps
Washing your car (20 minutes) 1,500 steps
Vacuuming the house (20 minutes) 1,500 steps

For more information and tips on staying active and boosting your health, visit our Wellbeing Zone. You can also call us on +44 (0) 1788 556 366, email enquiries@caba.org.uk or chat to us online.