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If You Do Just One Thing… Get Your Steps In

Spending time with Dr. Michael Roizen, Cleveland Clinic’s chief wellness officer is dizzying. He just can’t sit still — and it’s intentional. Dr. Roizen — author of What to Eat When and This Is Your Do-Over — is one of the biggest proponents of taking 10,000 steps a day. “It’s imperative for your health and longevity,” he says, adamantly. 

In his office, he works at a treadmill desk. At the airport, dinner, or waiting in a green room to do a TV segment, he paces and talks, paces and talks. When he takes a call, no matter where he is, if he happens to be doing what he rarely does — sitting — he jumps up and starts walking. At 73, he’s a spry, nimble guy who practices what he preaches. “If everybody would get off the couch and get walking (and manage stress and avoid five foods and excess portions), we’d probably cut the health care budget by $500 billion a year by reducing chronic diseases we get partly from being too sedentary.” 


Only a very active person will regularly hit 15,000 steps. So focus on 10,000 steps — which is roughly 5 miles.


Dr. Roizen rattles off studies that prove his point. One showed that overweight women who got 10,000 daily steps over an eight-week period improved their glucose tolerance; another reported that those same daily steps — regardless of duration or intensity — help reduce blood pressure. Risen also says that 10,000 steps has been shown to reduce insulin resistance. “In a study in Glasgow, Scotland, postal workers who walked 15,000 steps a day had reduced risk factors for heart disease.” What’s more, walking purportedly improves digestion, mood, brain function, and sleep.

Only a very active person will regularly hit 15,000 steps. So focus on 10,000 steps — which is roughly 5 miles. The average American walks 3,000 to 5,000 steps each day, and though health studies over the years have taken credit for locking in that magic 10,000 number, it actually dates back to 1960s Japan, when people started going crazy for manpo-kei, which translates to “10,000-steps meter.” 


If you’re falling below the 10,000 mark, set goals to add a 1,000 extra steps per day.


If you don’t already have a fitness tracker, get one. (You will love it. We promise.) Start noticing how many steps you take in a normal day. Watching the number over a few days will give you a sense of your average daily number. If you’re falling below the 10,000 mark, set goals to add a 1,000 extra steps per day. Don’t feel like you have to go from 4,000 to 7,000 overnight. Ease into your stride. And think creatively. Going for a walk will bump up your step count, but so will dancing around the kitchen, taking the stairs, vacuuming the house, and parking as far away from the grocery store entrance as you can. 

Not sure about what kind of fitness tracker to buy? Check out our road test of fitness trackers and take a look at a few stylishly elegant models as well.

Photo: Ivan Gener

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