Are 10,000 Steps Really Enough?

Wellness programs across the board have tried to motivate participants with some kind of 10,000 steps per day challenge. The average wellness plan challenge may take place over the course of a month, a week, or even set indefinitely. The fact is, walking 10,000 steps, or roughly 5 miles, has been shown to help control weight while reducing blood pressure and the risk of developing diabetes. However, when evaluating the 10,000 step mark in a situation where an individual’s lifestyle has remained mainly sedentary for the majority of their career, this goal may not have the context it needs to have the weight loss and health improvements previously mentioned. 10,000 slow paced steps are very different (and have a very different impact) than 10,000 fast paced steps. Without this very important designation, mere steps may not aid in actually losing weight or help to combat against poor diet and little muscle mass.

The reason the steps may not make the impact you’re looking for is due to the fact that steps don’t equal an increase in heart rate. A person may invest 1.5 hours into hitting the 10,000 step goal or walking 5 miles, without ever increasing their heart rate for optimal fat burn, depending on their pace. Individuals investing that much time and effort into increasing steps will likely give up if they do not see the benefit in doing so.

You can improve upon the 10,000 step challenge put forth by your wellness plan vendor by making suggestions to change the wellness challenge communication materials to include the “healthy, fast-paced step” caveat. With this small change in wording, your employees will have a better understanding of what it takes to truly change the sedentary lifestyle. In addition, making suggestions on how to increase healthy step taking can help employees visualize the changes they need to make. Here are a few suggestions from our wellness plan consultants that you can use:

Some ways to increase your steps without adding a lot of time:

  • Take a longer route when you walk the dog today, but try to complete the walk in the same time it usually takes.
  • Park further away at the office, at the grocery store, at your child’s daycare, or anywhere else you frequent often, but don’t build in time to do so. Walk briskly to get where you are going.
  • Use the stairs instead of the elevator, but try going up one extra floor and then coming back down again.
  • Walk briskly over to your neighborhood pool instead of driving.
  • If you have kids, instigate a race to the car, to the house, to the mailbox, or anywhere else it’s safe and easy to race. They will appreciate the extra fun.

Take it up a notch by doing the following to increase your steps:

  • Jog for 30 minutes after work.
  • Take a brisk walk for 20 to 30 minutes before eating lunch at work.
  • Join a 5K challenge.
  • Plan entertainment that incorporates activity on the weekends (ie swimming or hiking instead of going to the movies or out for dinner).

All-in-all, 10,000 step wellness plan challenges can be a great way to keep employees engaged with your wellness program and heading towards the right goals, but making sure they get the most out the challenge is equally as important for actually making the changes needed to improve health.