If you’re a walker or want to start a walking program, you’ve probably heard that walking 10,000 steps a day is the magic number for good health and weight loss. But no matter how many steps you take, your feet will carry the weight of all that exercise. 

Our dedicated podiatrists at Alliance Foot & Ankle Specialists understand that a healthy life requires healthy feet, and any exercise routine will stress your legs, ankles, and feet. Schedule an appointment with our podiatric team to discuss your exercise goals so we can help you find a program that meets your feet' needs.

High-tech fitness trackers have gained popularity over the past 10 years, beginning with the introduction of Fitbit in 2012 and continuing with the advent of the Apple Watch in 2014. Many of these devices encourage and reward participants for walking 10,000 steps per day—a distance of about five miles. But you may wonder where that number came from and if the 10,000-step goal is based on scientific study. Our knowledgeable podiatrists explain the health benefits of walking fewer than 10,000 steps.

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walking 10,000 steps a day

10,000 Steps a Day for Weight Loss and Weight Management

If you’re a walker, many people think 10,000 steps is the magic number for health and weight loss. But actually, it’s an arbitrary number that originated because of a marketing campaign for a pedometer invented just prior to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. It was used because the Japanese character for 10,000 looked like a person running. It was never based on scientific research.  

However, walking is a low-impact exercise that’s fairly easy for people of all ages. When they add walking to their daily routine, people can lose weight more easily or simply maintain the weight they’re at. Some researchers have associated walking 10,000 steps a day with weight loss and weight management, offering simple math for how to burn calories and fat based on your weight and the speed you walk.

But walking offers other health benefits. Current research suggests that walking isn’t just for weight loss, and many more benefits can be achieved by this exercise—you just don’t have to walk 10,000 steps to get them.

Science Says You Can Benefit From Less Daily Steps

Researchers have conducted studies to determine how many steps a day are needed to offer significant health benefits and possibly lengthen your life. A 2019 study found that women in their 70s who walked 4,400 steps per day reduced their risk of premature death by 40% compared to women who walked 2,700 steps a day. Women who walked more continued to see health benefits up to about 7,500 steps.

Since the average person takes approximately 3,000 steps per day (about 1.5 or 2 miles), you only need to add a 30-minute walk to your day to hit that sweet spot of 7,500 steps. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise, which includes brisk walking. That’s 30 minutes a day, five days a week.

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The Many Health Benefits Of Walking

Although most people equate the idea of “10,000 steps” with achieving weight loss, researchers know that walking is an excellent exercise for people whether they’re trying to lose weight or not. It can help provide the following benefits of more difficult types of exercise without putting as much stress and strain on the body:

  • Strengthens your bones and muscles
  • Improves your cardiovascular health
  • Improves your blood pressure
  • Lowers the risk of heart attack and stroke
  • Lowers the risk of certain cancers
  • Reduces weight and helps maintain a healthy weight
  • Manages diabetes and other chronic conditions
  • Improves your balance and coordination
  • Improves your mental health
  • Improves your cognition, memory, and sleep
  • Boosts your immune system

The benefits of walking have long been studied, and while there are many health advantages, it’s also important to consider the impact walking can have on your feet. If you’re going to engage in a walking routine for whatever health reason, you need to take care of the body part that allows you to put in those thousands of steps.

7 Tips for Caring for Your Feet When Walking

Walking is a beneficial exercise that can increase the quality and length of your life. But you can’t walk if you don’t have and maintain healthy feet. Here are some tips for keeping your feet healthy and in good working condition as you try to hit your daily step count:

  • Start Slow. If exercising hasn’t been part of your daily routine, don’t try to rush into a new program because you could be easily injured. Instead, start by walking for just a few minutes a day and increasing your time slowly. You’ll be walking your goal distance in no time.
  • Get the Right Shoes. Our podiatrists believe shoes that fit well are absolutely vital to maintaining healthy feet and exercising properly. An ill-fitting shoe, or a shoe without the right arch support, can lead to injuries and foot pain.
  • Don’t Walk Barefoot. Walking barefoot, especially outside, can lead to injury or infection. It can also lead to foot pain because your arches aren’t properly supported.
  • Trim Your Toenails. If your toenails aren’t trimmed properly, repetitive actions such as walking can contribute to painful foot problems. Cutting your nails may seem simple; however, there are many nail conditions that may require help from a podiatrist, including ingrown nails and fungal nails.
  • Keep Your Feet Dry. Moisture on your feet can lead to a number of health issues, including athlete’s foot and foot fungus. Wear shoes with good ventilation and socks meant for running or walking. When you’re done exercising, remove your sweaty socks and allow your feet to dry.
  • Moisturize Your Feet. Keeping your feet from getting too dry is also important. Dry skin can lead to fissures, blisters, and other foot problems. Putting lotion on your feet daily and applying Vaseline to areas prone to chafing or rubbing can help you avoid these problems.
  • Stretch. You may know that you should stretch before exercising, but you may not know that it’s important to stretch before walking, too. Stretching will help minimize soreness, prevent injury, increase flexibility, and keep you from feeling pain. Just two or three minutes of stretching your feet, ankles, and legs can make a huge difference in your walking health.  
  • Don’t Ignore Injuries or Pain. Walking is important to your health, but walking on injured feet can cause painful leg, ankle, and foot conditions that can interfere with your long-term walking plans. Rest any injuries, and see your podiatrist if home care, such as rest, elevation, and ice, isn’t helping.

Maintain Healthy Feet to Keep Your Steps Healthy by Visiting Our Experienced Podiatrists

If you want to start a walking program, consider making an appointment with your podiatrist to make sure that your feet and ankles are up to the challenge. We can help make certain that your walking journey starts off on the right foot.

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