We know as women over 50 that leading an active lifestyle will help us stay healthy as we get older. An essential component to that activity is walking – taking steps – sometimes many steps a day. Brisk walking of course, is helpful, as it elevates our heart rate. Even a more casual mode of walking will good, as it is still being active.
So, how many steps per day is active? Is there a magic number? How does our age come into play, and our health?
All good questions, and I’m going to do my best to provide substantiated answers for you, my friend. Whether you consider yourself highly active, somewhat active, or a low active type of person, there will be something offered here for you, should you be motivated to make some changes in the number of steps you take each day.
Of course, always consult with your health care provider and get the medical advice you need for your personal situation.
- Where did the 10,000 steps per day goal originate?
- What are the health benefits of taking steps every day?
- Why 10,000 steps? Is there a better activity goal to aim for?
- How about our age? Does the number of steps we take decrease as we get older?
- How to Track Your Daily Steps
- Beginner’s Guide to Steps: Create a Healthy Lifestyle
- How can I motivate myself to stay active?
- Conclusion: How many steps per day is active enough?
Where did the 10,000 steps per day goal originate?
The idea of 10,000 steps per day, about 5 miles on average, as being a healthy number originated in 1965, coming from the Japanese company that made a device called Manpo-kei, which means “10,000 steps meter”. It was a gadget that could be worn around the waist and would calculate the number of steps walked.
Over time, the concept of walking 10,000 steps moved around the world and was accepted as a standard of sorts. Simple as that. No magic here, just a recommendation that was embraced and communicated around the globe, which is not a bad thing!
What are the health benefits of taking steps every day?
The benefits of walking every day include, but are not limited to: staying active, improving cardiovascular health, and preventing and mitigating against diabetes. As women over 50 we should be aiming for an active lifestyle that includes walking or other types of steps each day.
This doesn’t mean that you have to take all 10,000 steps at once, if that is your goal. Gosh, that could be exhausting!
You can take a few hundred at a time throughout your day. It also isn’t just about doing the walking- it’s also about what kind of exercise you do. That is every bit as essential as the steps, or aerobic part of daily exercise. There are many exercises that will help with muscle tone while still being enjoyable and fun. We’ll get to those activities a little later.
How do I get to 10,000 steps if that is my goal?
In order to reach this volume of steps you’ll need to find what works best for your lifestyle. Some people like to take the stairs while others like to take a walk around the block. Other folks enjoy a treadmill, or a good hike.
Every person is different and this means that they will have different ways of reaching their goal. Find what’s most convenient for you. Mix it up with different exercises and change the amount of time that you do the exercise in order to see maximum results. I find that walking outside, walking/jogging inside, and the general activities of daily life (including going up and down the stairs in my home a number of times) when put together, almost always put me within range of the goal.
The most important thing is that while exercising, listen to your body. If you are experiencing pain or extreme discomfort then stop what you are doing. It’s better to take a few days off and rest than hurt yourself permanently. When you are feeling good, start your normal activities again.
Why 10,000 steps? Is there a better activity goal to aim for?
10,000 steps a day is a good daily goal if you’re healthy. While this is a great goal for most people to be striving toward, it isn’t going to work for everyone. If you find that you are not able to reach that many steps on an ongoing basis, then adjust your goals accordingly.
It’s also important to take other exercises into consideration. Research shows that people who participate in other activities such as bicycling and swimming also have a lower risk of developing health problems.
What about 7,500 steps? Is there benefit to that?
When you take into consideration other types of exercises, 7,500 steps per day is the recommended goal for people who want to improve their general health because you’re naturally getting in steps along with other types of exercise and activity. Plus, it’s been shown that there really isn’t much difference between 10,000 and 7,500 when it comes to health and fitness.
Here is some information on findings published in May, 2019 from the Journal of the American Medical Association:
The research outfitted nearly 17,000 older women with accelerometers, allowing researchers to track their daily steps for a week. When they checked back in just over four years later, the results were striking: As the number of daily steps increased, the all-cause mortality rate decreased—until 7,500 steps, where mortality rate leveled off.
So, for you personally, your health, fitness level, and any other restrictions you may have, a goal of 7,500 steps on average could be your ‘perfect’ step plan. Just know that if you want to remain fit and healthy as a woman in midlife, you need to have some activity in each and every day.
How about our age? Does the number of steps we take decrease as we get older?
Possibly. Once we reach our 50s and beyond, we may find that we’re unable to reach 10,000 daily steps without injuring ourselves due to physical limitations or ongoing health concerns.
The most important thing to take into consideration is how your body is responding to exercise and what type of exercises are best for you at your current age. There really isn’t a set number of steps; it all depends on the your ability.
It is recommended that people over 50, like us, try other types of exercises in order to meet our healthy activity objective.
For those who are able to take 10,000 steps a day without feeling tired or sore then keep doing what you’re doing. For those who get injured easily from taking too many steps, it’s best to incorporate other types of exercises into your routine. This way you will be getting the exercise that you need and still being able to reach your goal of being active.
How can we incorporate other exercises with walking?
Here are a few examples to get you started:
Mix it up! If you’re going to participate in an exercise other than walking, try mixing up the way that you do it. Varying the intensity and duration is enough to keep your body from getting too used to the exercise and gaining endurance. Varying where you walk also helps; walking around a lake is different than walking on pavement, after all.
If you are going to do strength training, then back off of the amount that you do. This way, you won’t overdo it. Strength training can be done without hurting yourself, but it does take time to build up the muscles that you want and they will get sore.
Keep in mind that stretching is very important for your body too! Stretch yourself out before doing other exercises; this will help keep you from getting injured.
What is the average number of steps per day?
A 2011 study concluded that as healthy adults we can reasonably take anywhere from 4,000 to 18,000 steps per day, so a 10,000 step goal is reasonable for healthy people.
How many steps per day do you take? Do you keep track of them? What would be a good goal for you? Here are some general categories:
- Inactive: less than 5,000 steps per day
- Average (somewhat active): ranges from 7,500 to 9,999 steps per day
- Very active: more than 12,500 steps per day
As we age, our physical activity level naturally decreases and we should not assume that 10,000 steps will help us achieve the goal of healthy aging. Ambulatory activity is an important part of what we do each day to maintain a healthy lifestyle; however, it is not the only component. Daily activities such as household chores, cooking meals, and work tasks will help to keep us active but we don’t count them as physical activity.
If you are not able to get our step count in through walking it is important to add other types of daily activity such as gardening, cleaning, strength training or using a stationary bike/elliptical machine. My motto? Where there’s a will, there’s a way!
The most important thing to remember is that you need to enjoy what you are doing and don’t overdo it by injuring yourself before making an effort to be more active.
How to Track Your Daily Steps
The easiest way to measure physical activity is through tracking your daily step count. You can use an app on your phone that includes a pedometer.
Many budget friendly fitness trackers are available and do a great job of tracking steps, heart rate, blood pressure, and more. And, you don’t have to have your phone in hand for them to count your paces.
If you’re more technologically challenged, use a simple pedometer, then make a spreadsheet and log your steps throughout the day. This way, you’ll be able to see how many steps it takes to reach 10,000 and what time of day is best for you to take those steps. You should also make a note of the types of activities you do each day so that you can work them into your goal.
Steps are counted in every type of activity, including walking, running, hiking and biking. You could even count steps on an elliptical machine if you had one or spend some quality time on a treadmill to increase your steps.
Do you track your workout goals and results? How about other tasks, goals and dreams?
Thinking about a goal is one thing; putting it in writing takes you so much further toward turning it into a reality!
These are the tools and resources I use to keep myself accountable & plan for the future. LEARN MORE
Beginner’s Guide to Steps: Create a Healthy Lifestyle
It is important for us as women over 50 to keep in mind that a goal of 10,000 steps per day doesn’t have to be done all at once; it can be divided throughout the day, and it can be built upon slowly. In fact, you should go slowly if you’ve not been active regularly.
NOTE: the following estimates will vary based on a number of factors. Here’s a simple chart to give you an idea of how many steps you take in a mile based on height. I found it to be accurate for me at 5’3″.
Here are some examples:
A 45-minute walk around the neighborhood is about 1.5 miles and takes approximately 3,500 steps .
Walking to a nearby store to pick up a few things and back home, if it is approximately 1 mile, will result in about 2,300 steps.
Walking in your neighborhood park for 15 minutes at a brisk pace (3 miles per hour) will take approximately 1,500 steps.
Adding more steps throughout the day, whether from walking your dog around the block before work or taking the stairs instead of an escalator at lunch, can add up to extra steps. It is possible to walk 10,000+ steps in a day and it doesn’t have to be all concentrated in one workout.
Adding some easy exercise to your day, such as a 10-minute strength training routine while you watch television or doing leg lifts while sitting in a chair can help you reach the recommended steps per day. It’s important to keep moving throughout the day and not sit for extended periods of time.
Sitting for many consecutive hours reduces our body movements and can increase our risk of long-term health problems such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity. So, do your best to work up to 25 – 30 minutes of moderate exercise several times a week.
Steps are a great way to start an exercise routine as part of the warm-up process, or continue one if you have been at it for a while. Recording your steps daily will allow you to see how far you’ve come and make adjustments along the way. You may be surprised to find that you’re already at the recommended steps per day and don’t have to do anything different than you currently do.
If this is the case, that’s great, but if not, make some changes in your daily routine that will help you get closer to your daily step goal. You can find more easy ways to add steps into your daily routine here:
- Start your day with a walk. It’s a wonderful part of a healthy morning routine!
- Take the dog for another walk or go on a morning stroll, even if it’s only around your block.
- Park further away in the parking lot
- Walk up and down stairs instead of using the lift or escalator.
- Walk with friends as much as possible – A brisk walk can be fun and helps you spend time with your friends and family, plus exercise at the same time!
Walk a little more each day to reach your step goal by making small, then moderate changes in your daily routine and activity levels.
How can I motivate myself to stay active?
If you are not used to being very active, it can be hard to get started. Here are some tips that might help keep the motivation high:
- Set some short-term goals. Make a list of things you’d like to do, such as walking for 30 minutes every day or running 3 times per week and set small achievable bits of exercise.
- Start with a buddy. If you have a friend or family member who wants to get active, start by walking together – It’s easier when someone is doing it with you and you can keep each other motivated!
- Create an exercise playlist on your iPod – Listen to music that will get you pumped about exercising and that you wouldn’t normally listen to.
- Make a note of your progress – You don’t have to do this every day, but doing it from time to time can be motivating. You can also use the an app on your phone or computer to log each exercise session in addition to wearing your steps tracker.
- Find an activity you enjoy – Walking, jogging and hiking are all great activities that can burn calories while enjoying nature.
- Find friends who also want to be active with you – You can create a group message on your computer or phone for yourself and a few other people to keep each other motivated. Not only will you be more likely to stay active if you have friends to do it with, but you’ll also be able to have fun together and chat along the way.
- Find an activity that’s a social event – If running or working out alone isn’t your thing, join a workout group in your area. Social events make exercising more of a social experience and keeps you motivated as well as keeping boredom at bay.
Conclusion: How many steps per day is active enough?
It is important for us as women over 50 to keep in mind that reaching the recommended 10,000 steps per day is a great start and doesn’t have to be done all at once. And, your personal activity goal could be less, perhaps 7,500, or a number that fits within your overall health. Remember to get the appropriate medical advice, too, if you’re unsure what is right for you.
It can also help you stay active by incorporating more exercise into your daily routine because there are plenty of exercises available where you can get good muscle tone and flexibility while doing something fun and enjoyable. You might be pleasantly surprised at how many steps you’ll gain by doing a low impact aerobic workout!
Bottom line? It’s up to you to take care of yourself, to get up and move, to get out and be active. What a wonderful gift you’ll be giving to yourself and those you love!
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