The idea originated in Japan in the run up to the Olympic games in Tokyo in 1964. Since then, walking 10,000 steps a day – which would take about an hour and 40 minutes to complete – has become a goal for daily fitness among people worldwide.
While it’s laudable to aim for this target, an hour and 40 minutes is a huge chunk of anyone’s day. And that much walking is hard work.
I take the line that 30 minutes a day is enough for most of us, and if you miss one or two days each week, well, walking five or six days is better than nothing. But even that is too much for some folks. It’s a shame, because the benefits are enormous.
So here’s hope for the exercise-challenged. . .
How does ten minutes a day sound? Almost every able-bodied person should be able to do this.
Health authorities in the UK now encourage people to focus on short bouts of brisk walking rather than so many steps at one go.
The Least Active See the Greatest Benefits
The ancient Greek physician and father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, wrote that walking is “man’s best medicine.”
Few would argue with him, and Public Health England (PHE), a UK advisory agency set up to improve the nation’s health, is sending out a strong message to do just that – walk.
In a report published last August, they say 150 minutes a week brings benefits associated with 100 health conditions, but – here’s the big news — even ten minutes of moderately intense walking a day is enough to improve cardiovascular fitness and reduce some risk factors for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
The benefits of these short bursts of exercise add up over time. In fact, the evidence suggests that three sessions of ten minutes each have the same impact as 30 minutes done in one continuous session.
Those who currently don’t manage 30 minutes a week would see the biggest reduction in chronic disease.
In other words, you can reap huge gains by going from “nothing at all” to “just a little”.
The UK’s Chief Medical Officer recognizes even 30 minutes a week as beneficial. “Something is better than nothing,” he suggests. “Start small and build up gradually: just 10 minutes at a time provides benefit”.
Fitness can be improved in only ten minutes as long as it’s brisk, meaning at least three miles per hour. At this rate breathing becomes faster, heart rate increases and there’s a feeling of warmth. This improvement in aerobic capacity makes it easier to perform everyday physical activities and improves the quality of life.
For the population as a whole this is likely to result in a 15% reduction in early risk of death.
A Wealth of Benefits
Brisk walking improves many conditions, including. . .
- hypertension – lowers blood pressure, thereby reducing the risk of death from coronary heart disease and stroke
- diabetes – increases insulin sensitivity
- overweight – increases energy expenditure and metabolism
- anxiety and depression (mild to moderate) – improves mood
- musculoskeletal problems – reduces inflammation and pain including lower back pain
Professor Paul Cosford, the medical director of PHE, said, “Managing all the pressures of everyday life can mean that exercise takes a back seat, but building a brisk walk into your daily routine is a simple way to get more active.
“Taking a brisk ten-minute walk each day will get your heart pumping, improve your mood and lower the risk of serious health issues like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.”
New findings from a British and Australian team back the PHE report.
In their study of 50,000 walkers aged 30 and up, they found that, compared to slow walkers, those who walked at a brisk pace had a 21% reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease and a 24% lower risk of early death from any cause.
The older you are the more pronounced the benefts. Those aged 45 to 59 enjoyed a 36% lower risk of death from any cause, and fast walkers over age 60 cut their risk of death from cardiovascular disease by more than half!
These statistics should encourage anyone who is sedentary to get started. At just ten minutes a day, you can no longer say you don’t have enough time.