First things first: How many steps do you need to do to lose weight? Is it the fêted 10,000 or a number somewhat shy or beyond that? And what exactly should you be doing during those steps – changing the intensity, pace or stride?
Well, fear not. WH has the expert intel on how many steps are needed, how you can make your walk more of a workout and what you should be wearing on your feet to get the most out of it.
We asked PT Scott Laidler for the 101 on walking for exercise: ‘As a rule, walking should be part of your daily routine for general health and wellbeing,’ he says.
Benefits of walking
No surprises that walking is good for your – a study by the UK government revealed that walking can reduce your risk of developing illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, dementia and some cancers, and that one brisk 10-minute walk per day can lower your risk of early death by 15%.
Even better – it’s free and accessible to almost everybody. Even in self-isolation when lockdown measures ascribe just one form of outside exercise per day, walking is still one of the activities you can do – at a safe distance from others, of course.
But, how can you get more out of time on your feet and should you be tracking your step count? We investigate.
What are the average steps per day in the UK?
We all know about the 10,000 step target that’s been lurking about for a while, but how many Brits are actually hitting that goal?
According to a study investigating Brits step count, it has been found 58% of Brits are trying to reach the goal of walking 10,000 steps a day, whilst 38% of Brits are choosing to monitor their step count every day. However, over half of Brits estimate their own average daily step count sits at just 5,836 steps – a little over half of what they should be doing for optimum fitness.
This number will have changed in lockdown as lunchtime walks to grab a Pret lunch or assuage your caffeine-monster have been nixed. However, that doesn’t change the fact that the 10,000 steps goal is not especially scientific.
The number came about when a Japanese academic invented an early pedometer in 1964, and deduced that, if citizens went from an average of 4,000 steps a day to 10,000, then they’d stand to burn in the region of an extra 500 calories. The increase in daily activity would, in turn, be reflected in the amount of energy burnt. But this could be true for any number that increases. So, take it with a pinch of salt as opposed to a metric that must be hit bang on every time.
On average, how many calories are burnt doing 10,000 steps?
While this rule (an extra 500 calories when you do an extra 6,000 steps) isn’t written in stone, factors such as your pace, weight, body fat percentage, and age will also affect how walking impacts your body. Sadly, there’s no direct “X steps = Y calories” equation. It’s about figuring out what works for your body.
How many steps are needed to lose weight?
If we work to an average, then we can work out approximate numbers. Walking at a pace of 3 mph (or 20 minutes per mile) could burn upwards of three calories per minute – that’s 80 calories for a 30-minute walk.
However, increasing your pace to 5mph (12 minutes per mile) could more than double your calorie burn, meaning more than 180 calories for that same 30-minute walk.
Obviously, it’s worth remembering that we all burn calories at different rates, so that number could be higher or lower – but as a rough guide, know your walking speed and measure how long you’re up and active. Or, use a fitness tracker to monitor your movement.
How can I increase the intensity of my walk?
If you’re looking to make the most of your daily walk, PT Scott Laidler has some advice on turning it up a notch.
‘If your goal is weight loss, I’d recommend aiming for 5,000-7,000 quality steps – so either elevated or at a brisk pace,’ Laidler says.
Why? Because speeding up your stroll and walking uphill will increase your heart rate – and that’s when you begin to burn calories.
‘When your heart rate reaches upwards of 100-120 bpm, age dependent, [or roughly 60-70% of your maximum heart rate; 220 – your age], you enter what’s known as the fat-burning zone, where fat is used as your primary energy source,’ Laidler adds. In other words, you torch cals.
BTW, here’s an easy guide on heart rate training zones.
Try this 30-minute walking workout
Make your walk more of a workout by trying this four-phase plan. Remember Laidler’s advice and up the pace if you feel you need more of a burn.
Phase one: 0-5 minutes
Warm up. Walk at a steady speed that feels comfortable.
Phase two: 5-15 minutes
Perform 60-second speed intervals [ie walking as fast as you can] alternated with 60-seconds of recovery.
Phase three: 15-25 minutes
40 seconds of speed intervals alternated with 20 seconds of recovery.
Phase four: 25-30 minutes
Cool down. Walk at a steady and comfortable pace to recover.
4 easy ways to increase your minutes spent walking
A few months ago you might have hopped off the bus a stop early or committed to walking around the office every hour. Now the office is your kitchen table and the bus? What’s that, again?
We joke. But, it can be more difficult to get your steps in when your world has contracted in a huge way. Fortunately we have some fail safe tips to keep you up and at ’em, no commute required.
1/ Up your water intake
Aim to drink a certain amount of water each hour while working, say, half a pint, and set a timer to remind you to get up and refill your glass. You might only be walking to the sink but it’s still something.
2/ Enforce a ‘social stroll’ rule
A what? Let us explain. Ever find yourself slumped on the sofa, endlessly scrolling through Insta posts? Thought so.
Instead, stand up every time you want to check social media, and walk around until you’ve finished your snoop session.
3/ Kill time with walking
While the kettle boils, while TV ad breaks are running, while you’re waiting to use an occupied loo, just walk it out. Aim for a few stair ascents or hallway ambles.
4/ Pop on a podcast
Walking can feel slightly aimless if you’re just getting out there to get it done. Whack on a health podcast, audiobook or playlist and walk for the length of time it plays for. An easy fix that’s enjoyable too.
Shop the best kit to get you on your way
All you need is a good pair of trainers that are appropriate for walking – don’t chance the risk of shin splints and common foot problems—and an engaging playlist or one of the latest best health podcasts.
But, if you’re really serious about hitting your step goal, then you need to invest in a fitness tracker. According to the American Council on Exercise, people who track their steps take an average of 2,500 more steps per day than those who don’t.
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