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Friday, January 29, 2010

10,000 Steps a Day

(Remember: I'm not a doctor, so all standard disclaimers apply. Proceed at your own risk!)

The 10K Steps a Day program is an exercise program based on the Cooper point system I've been talking about the last couple of days. It's a simple way to make sure you get enough aerobic exercise to stay fit. You've probably even heard some of the golf pros talking about it; Tom Lehman and his wife Melissa have been outspoken supporters of the program.

Here's the basic idea: Given the length of an average person's stride, 10,000 steps is roughly 5 miles. Of course, you aren't walking that 5 miles all at once, and Cooper made it clear in his books that you need to get your intensity up to a certain level to get the benefits of aerobic training. However - and this is the key to the 10K Steps program - Cooper discovered two interesting facts about aerobic exercise:
  • Even if your exercise didn't reach the desired level of intensity, it could have a training effect if you just did it long enough. Got that? Maybe you walk so slow that a half-hour isn't enough to do you any good... but if you did it for several hours, the sheer length of your effort would give you a training effect.
  • Aerobic benefits were cumulative. Simply put, running 1 mile this morning and 1 mile tonight gave you the same aerobic benefit as running 2 miles all at once. (Yes, the 2 mile run would have a bigger effect on your muscular strength, but we're talking aerobic benefit here.)
That's the idea behind 10K Steps a day. If you walk 5 miles a day, even though it's in bits and pieces, it's enough to cause a training effect. According to his charts, taking over 20 minutes to walk one mile gives you no points... but walking 5 miles, even though it takes you over 100 minutes, gets you 4 points! Done 7 days a week (and we all walk some each day), that's 28 points a week, only 2 short of the Air Force fitness requirements. In the words of the Fitness Health Zone website, "10000 steps a day equals to thirty minutes of moderate physical activity on a daily basis."

If you're looking for a good way to start an aerobic program and you don't care for most of your options (running, swimming, biking, etc.), you might want to check into the 10K Steps program. All it will cost you is a pedometer (I made a quick check on the Web and found some highly-rated models for $20-25) and maybe some good walking shoes. In addition to the Fitness Health Zone site mentioned above, you can find some guidance on how to build up to 10K steps on this page at The Walking Site.

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