You’ve probably heard all about the benefits of walking 10,000 steps a day. It is worth noting that the target of 10,000 steps (it seems a little neat, right?) began as a piece of marketing in 1965 by a Japanese company that was about to introduce a device called a Manpo-kei (it means 10,000-steps meter). However, it is a useful goal — a review of 32 studies, published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found that “10,000 steps/day is a reasonable target for healthy adults.”
As a personal trainer and fitness writer, I run and walk pretty much everywhere, so hitting this figure isn’t a problem, with 15 to 20k steps a day being my norm. But for a fortnight, I decided to double my step count. Now, for sanity’s sake, I thought I would base my step count on 15,000 steps, meaning my doubled step count would be 30,000 steps. It sounds a lot, but read on to find out what happened.
The benefits of more steps
Let’s just make it clear that you don’t need to have an extremely high daily step count to reap the health benefits of walking. As is proven by the American Heart Association’s study which found that each increase of 1,000 steps taken daily by the studies' participants was associated with a 22% lower chance of dying from all causes. The researchers in the study found that compared with a group of people walking nearly 4,000 steps every day, the risk of death from any cause was reduced by 49% for 5,500 steps and 67% for 11,500 steps a day.
Walking generally is great for cardiovascular health, helping the heart and lungs to remain strong. It’s also low impact, so less likely to cause pain, unlike running which can lead to pretty severe knee, hip, and ankle pain (to name a few) thanks to continuous pavement pounding.
Oh and if it’s weight loss you’re after, you’d be surprised at how beneficial walking can be. Our bodies were made for walking — it’s a natural movement, and walking (especially briskly to raise your heart rate) does torch through a fair few calories!
I doubled my step count every day for a fortnight — here’s what happened
My feet hurt
Sounds obvious really, doesn’t it? But the extra steps, which were mostly done at a fairly intense speed, left the soles of my feet a little sore. Hard skin and calluses were commonplace, so I did book to get a pedicure once the two weeks were up! The fact my trainers weren’t giving me their usual ‘bounce’ may have also played a part in this. More on that later.
I got through an epic number of podcasts
I can walk for about 20 minutes in silence before I need to put my Airpods in and get a podcast going. Podcasts are great — I’m a big fan of health and wellness-based podcasts, my favorites being The Model Health Show, The EC Method, and the Zoe podcast. Why not kill two birds with one stone and rack up the steps while learning something new?
I did this whilst away in Australia
I am very lucky that my family lives on the west coast of Australia where the sun shines pretty much all the time, so going out for more walks and runs during January was far easier than if I had been in the UK, which was snowy and cold. Doubling your step count outside is much more achievable during the warmer months and a treadmill might be the best option during winter.
My trainers wore down considerably
My trusty Nike running shoes have seen better days thanks to this walking challenge! I felt as though the previously spongy sole became a little solid and that ‘bouncy’ feeling I once enjoyed has certainly disappeared. This will also have been in part to my running but still, the extra steps would most surely have played a part.
I needed to stretch a lot more
Extra movement = extra stretching, that’s the way it should be. I am (sadly) not 21 anymore and I can’t spring up with ease after hitting 20k steps or so, without the odd little niggle here and there. I noticed that during this fortnight, particularly after a few days, I was a little tighter in my hamstrings and my shoulders just felt more tense.
You can get a real sweat on
Doubling my step count meant also finding more time to walk, so to save time, I was walking pretty rapidly. On one particular 10km walk, I was going at an 8 min/km pace, which is pretty pacey. My arms were pumping and my legs were moving double time as I raced through my steps, and let me tell you, I was breaking a real sweat.
All this walking helped my digestion
Feeling sluggish? Walking could help. I have a fairly health digestion (I like to think!), but if I’m ever feeling bloated, then I will often head out for a super brisk walk to get things moving. During these two weeks, I didn’t experience much bloat as everything seemed to be functioning smoothly, which automatically just makes you feel great. Happy gut, happy brain, after all.
I doubled my step count every day for a fortnight — here’s my verdict
I’m going to be honest and admit that I did fail on a few days during this challenge — work would take over, I would prioritize a gym workout, or I simply ran out of time, so trying to get extra steps just wasn't feasible.
However, on the days I did complete the challenge, I felt healthier, my mood was lifted thanks to endorphins and podcasts, and I reaped the lovely digestion benefits.
You don’t have to walk 30,000 steps a day — in fact, most people simply wouldn’t have the time to do this many steps a day, but when you can, go out for an extra walk, skip public transport and walk instead. Honestly, it's such a simple form of movement that can make you feel so good.