Keeping fit for retirement by simply stepping out

Feet sneakers walking on fall leaves Outdoor with Autumn season nature on background 10,000 steps

Image: Everst/

The rise of first, pedometers (step counters) and then activity trackers, has been useful for both fitness and health. They not only help keep track of how many steps you’re doing each day, but they’ve been shown to motivate you to get you out of your seat more often.

How many steps a day should you aim for? The commonly cited goal is to achieve 10,000 steps a day. This number was first proposed back in the 1960s in Japan where walking clubs embraced the nickname ‘manpo-kei’ (literally ‘10,000 steps meter’) given to pedometers by the manufacturers.

Illustrated chart of activity level in steps

As you can see in the activity level guide, if you achieve 10,000 steps per day you’re considered ‘active’.

The number of daily steps recommended for children is 13,000 for boys and 11,000 for girls. Older adults, or those with chronic diseases like heart disease, might need to set themselves slightly lower targets.

The motivational advantage of wearing a pedometer or activity tracker comes from the fact that when you wear them, there’s a tendency to keep checking them. This self-monitoring can cause you to move. People will commonly take an extra 2000 steps per day when wearing an activity tracker. In one study of low-activity individuals, those extra steps resulted in a reduction of about 1 inch (2.5 centimetres) in waist circumference.

Pedometers and activity trackers can also be educational as they show how making relatively small excursions—like getting out of your chair to fill your water bottle, increases your daily step tally.

There’s value in what is called ‘incidental activity’.

You don’t have to have a hi-tech activity tracker or an even a more expensive Apple watch to keep count of your steps. A low-tech pedometer will give you a step count at a fraction of the cost.

The first step toward the optimal lifestyle is literally one step, followed by another, and another, and . . .

Why not challenge yourself for a week to do 10,000 steps a day. It’s time to step up!

Darren Morton is the lead researcher at the Lifestyle Research Centre at Avondale College of Higher Education and the author of Live More Active. This post is adapted, with permission, from his book Live More Active.

Category: Physical Health

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