How Hitting Your Step Goal May Help Your Health More Than You Know

March 24, 2022

Woman walking.Prioritizing physical activity matters now more than ever. As we pass the two-year anniversary of on-and-off isolation brought on by COVID-19, many people have adopted a more sedentary lifestyle. This lack of movement has caused significant weight gain for many Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), obesity rates reached or passed 35% in 16 states from 2020 to 2021.

Although upping your fitness goals during circumstances like these may seem daunting, the next chapter in your health journey could be just a step away.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that most adults get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week for “substantial health benefits.” This recommendation breaks down to less than 30 minutes of activity per day. Walking is an easy and effective way to get in your daily movement.

While the advice “get your steps” may not be new to you, you may not know exactly why or how much your step count can actually improve your overall health. Below are answers to some of the most common questions about hitting your step goals.

Q: Why does everyone keep emphasizing “get your steps”?

A: A study published by the NIH, conducted by the National Cancer Institute, National Institute on Aging, and the CDC examined the connection between step count and intensity and risk of death. The study found: “people who took 12,000 steps a day had a 65% lower risk of dying than those who took only 4,000. Higher step counts were also associated with lower rates of death from heart disease and cancer. These benefits were consistent across age, sex, and race groups.”

Q: Do I actually need 10,000 steps a day?

A: While many smart watches and fitness trackers default to a goal of 10,000 steps, research by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) indicates that any increase in movement is good. Right now, the average American gets around 4,000 to 5,000 steps per day. If you are on the lower end of that number and doubling your daily movement seems too daunting, consider adding more activity in little increments. See below for some ideas on how!

Q: How intense does my walking need to be to reach my goals?

A: Contrary to popular belief, movement does not need to be intense to be effective. The same study published by the NIH concluded: “Step intensity did not seem to impact the risk of mortality once the total number of steps per day was considered. Only an increased number of steps per day was associated with a reduced risk of death.”

Q: How can I get my steps in during the day?

A: Trying to find time for increased activity can be intimidating, especially if you have a busy schedule. Here are some easy ways to add steps into your daily routine:

  • Park your car farther away from your destination
  • Take walk breaks around your office building or workspace
  • Avoid the elevator – take the stairs instead
  • Suggest walks with friends instead of coffee dates
  • Taking a virtual meeting? Get some headphones and walk while you talk

Simple changes like these have the potential to lead to a steady increase in your daily steps and, eventually, an improvement in your overall health and wellness.

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It's a good idea to check in with your physician before starting any new exercise routine. Need assistance finding a doctor? We can help.