Those 10,000 Steps a Day May Not Be Enough

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Since activity trackers like the Fitbit and Jawbone’s Up went mainstream, 10,000 steps a day has been the gold standard for adults interested in staving off obesity and maintaining a relatively healthy lifestyle. In addition to being an easy-to-remember number, the 10,000 benchmark is totally doable. Take the stairs, go for a lunchtime stroll, and walk the dog for an extra ten minutes, and boom — five digits before 10 p.m.

But according to a new study, you may need to increase your daily goal by a lot. A U.K.-based research team looked at the metabolic syndrome features of 111 postal workers in Glasgow. Roughly half of the study participants were desk-dwelling office workers, and the other half delivered mail on foot, spending most of their 9-to-5 jobs standing or walking.

Not surprisingly, the subjects who showed features of metabolic syndrome, like high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol, excess fat around the midsection, and high blood sugar, were among the deskbound, while those with normal stats belonged to the delivery group. And, according to data collected by wearable activity trackers, the healthier group far surpassed the recommended 10,000 steps. They clocked closer to 15,000.

So, what does it take to step up your game by 50 percent? You’ll need to do more than park your car in the furthest empty space in the lot. Just like those Glaswegian delivery guys, you need to integrate walking and standing into your everyday life.

Here’s a good rule of thumb: A quarter mile should take about 500 steps (though, of course, everyone has a different stride). While that might sound like a lot of extra walking (2.5 miles of it), you can chip away at your new goal with little adjustments.

If you usually spend the first 15 minutes of every morning checking email and social media from your phone, step outside or hop on a treadmill while you swipe through your app routine. If your workday consists of back-to-back meetings and phone calls, see who’s game for a walking meeting and which conference calls you can take in-transit while you head to the local coffee shop. Think about the stores and restaurants you consider within walking distance from home or work, and then expand your idea of what’s “walkable” by a quarter mile. That extra distance, and the return trip, can add an easy 1,000 steps to your day.

In other words, the key is to look at your current routine and determine which portions of it can be stretched out. Whether that’s going for an after-dinner stroll or just walking to the bathroom on the other side of the office, those 5,000 extra steps will be yours in no time.