How many miles should you walk a day? The truth about step counts.
While the benefits of walking are many and include a reduced risk of heart disease, improved metabolism and cholesterol levels, and boosted mood and cognition, deciding how much time to spend walking each day is another matter.
Like anything else, getting the most out of walking depends on one's level of commitment.
"Walking is a very accessible activity for people to start or continue and absolutely contributes to a healthy lifestyle," says Shelby Johnson, MD, a physical medicine & rehabilitation specialist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester.
From distance calculations to fitting the practice into one's daily schedule, here are the reasons to make walking a priority (and tips on how to do so.)
How many miles should you be walking every day?
Without having to make great efforts to do so, the average American takes between 3,000 and 4,000 steps daily doing everyday things – the equivalent of about 1.5 to 2 miles. That amount alone has been shown to lower one's mortality risk.
But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has challenged Americans to try and double or triple that amount by incorporating more walking into one's daily routine. It suggests for most adults to aim for 10,000 steps a day – the equivalent of about 5 miles. The University of Kansas KU Medical Center calls the 10,000 steps recommendation, "the ‘magic pill’ everyone is seeking" when it comes to positive health outcomes.
How much time should you be walking every day?
If counting results by miles or distance isn't your thing, you can measure your efforts in quantities of time instead. "As a walker, you should aim for at least 30 minutes per day, or a total of 150 minutes per week," says Austin "Ozzie" Gontang, Ph.D. a licensed psychotherapist and the director of the San Diego Marathon Clinic. "The distance you cover during that time will depend anyway on factors such as your walking speed and terrain," he says.
Walking that duration of time each day, "improves cardiovascular health, strengthens bones and muscles and can help maintain or obtain a healthy body weight," adds Johnson.
Walking sessions don't have to be continuous to be beneficial
What's more, if it’s too difficult or unrealistic to block out 30 minutes of walking to do all at once, "breaking it up into three short, 10-minute sessions will give you all the same health benefits," says Michael Fredericson, MD, director of the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation division of Stanford University.
It may also be helpful to remember that additional steps can be acquired creatively, beyond dedicated walking time. Walking is easy to make a part of one's daily routine such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking at the other end of the lot and walking a further distance to a store's entrance when shopping, getting off public transportation a stop early to walk the rest of the way home, or helping a neighbor by walking their dog around the block for them.
"The best exercise is the one you do," says Gontang. "Studies have shown that regular brisk walking can be just as effective as running in reducing the risk of heart disease and improving overall levels of fitness."
Learn more about the best exercises here:
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: How many miles should I walk a day? Step counts you need, how to do it