10,000 Steps to Better Senior Health?

10000 steps

You’ve probably heard that it’s necessary to take 10,000 steps per day for the best senior health. That sounds like a lot, because it is – 10,000 steps equals about five miles. Some elderly adults are more than happy to reach that goal, but others may look at that number and think they can’t possibly hit that mark. And when you believe you can’t hit a recommendation for something, it can be quite easy to say, “Nothing I do will make a difference” and throw in the towel before you even begin.

Where did that 10,000 steps goal come from, anyway? Perhaps interestingly, it’s not really backed up by scientific evidence. Though everyone agrees that walking for exercise is good for you, the 10,000 steps was actually a marketing ploy from way back in 1965. A Japanese company created a pedometer with a name that meant “the 10,000 step meter” in Japanese. Why 10,000? Because the Japanese character for “10,000” looks like a man taking a walk[1]. (See for yourself)

But a 2019 study on elderly women, as reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that walking 4,400 steps per day – which is about two miles – can have significant health benefits. Mortality rates decreased for women who walked that far in a day compared to those who remained sedentary.

Moving is good for your brain, too. Another study found that those who walked at least 3,800 steps each day cut their risk of dementia by one-third. That’s significant!

But what if you can’t walk that much? The good news is that even the smallest amounts of walking can help you pace your way to better health. Even small bursts of activity can improve your quality of life and even your life expectancy.

A quick note before we continue—before embarking on any exercise regimen, check with your doctor to make sure it’s ok for you. When you are exercising, it’s always a good idea to have medical alert technology right there with you. Having the ability to call for help immediately and for any reason can make you feel much more confident, and that might even lead to more exercise!

Your Body Needs Exercise

Getting any amount of physical activity is helpful for the human body. But what qualifies as exercise?  According to Public Health Reports, exercise is defined as “a subset of physical activity that is planned, structured, and repetitive and has as a final or an intermediate objective the improvement or maintenance of physical fitness.”

Physical activity is the key in that definition. And physical activity is defined as “any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that results in energy expenditure.” This can include sports, but it also includes occupational or household activities[2].

Getting even the most basic exercise in the comfort of your own home can make a difference. A quick, light jog or brisk walk can get your heart rate up, which can in turn make your body a little healthier. In addition, 15 minutes of movement can leave you feeling refreshed and energized, lift your spirits, and boost your cognitive function[3]. 

Though there has long been the recommendation of 150 minutes of exercise each week – which typically breaks down to 30 minutes a day for five days – the American Heart Association reports that the cumulative physical activity a person gets over those days matters more than 30-minute increments of energetic movement. That means simple actions, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or taking the long way around the house to the mailbox, can make a difference.

This might be a big sigh of relief for most of us – that’s because about four out of every five of us don’t actually meet the exercise recommendations[4].

How to Get More Physical Activity

As we get older, it might seem harder to get the same exercise we got in our youth. But that’s okay – as our bodies and needs change it’s time to think outside the box!

Here are some good ways to sneak easy physical activity into your day:

·         Take the stairs. If you’re steady on your feet, ignore the elevator and take the stairs. It might only be one or two floors, but taking the stairs can get your heart rate up a bit and exercise your muscles while still getting you to the same destination.

·         Park at the back of the parking lot. Sneaking in a little more physical activity can really add up. Rather than park at the front of a parking lot, seek out a space at the back. The extra steps add up fast. If you’re in the store, take the long way around other aisles to get to your destination.

·         Take a dog for a walk. Walking a dog on a leash will get you moving and give you the good feeling of making that furry friend quite happy indeed. If you’ve got a very active pooch, that good boy or girl might even help you get to 10,000 steps! Toss a Frisbee or stick for a boost of fun.

·         Toss a ball with the grandkids. Don’t want to leave the yard? Playing a game of toss with the grandkids can help you get some exercise. If you can’t stay on your feet for too long, tossing a ball from a seated position is still great for your upper body.  Any games that move your body in any way you can manage are better than being sedentary.

·         Go on a walk with a friend. Not only does this help you both get in a good number of steps, the socialization matters. Daily visits with family and friends can lower the risk of dementia by 15% compared to those who don’t socialize at all[5]. If you plan on a set time every day for a walk, you’re both more likely to build it into a habit and keep up the good work.

·         Invest in a standing desk. Did you know that more than 80% of jobs today are sedentary[6]? If you’re trapped behind a desk for the majority of the day, look for ways to get in as much activity as you can. A standing desk, one that allows you to stand up and work instead of sit down, can be a game changer.

·         Clean with vigor. While you probably already know that mopping the kitchen floor can get your heart rate up, did you know that even simpler household chores can make a difference? The risk of dementia drops by 21% for those who regularly do household chores[7].

·         Create a walking routine. Did you know that walking for even two minutes after eating a meal can help lower your blood sugar[8]? Create a habit of walking around the house a bit after you eat, or step outside to breathe the fresh air while you walk around your garden or circle the block. The more often you do this, the more likely you are to create a habit that will stick.

·         Get a bike. Rather than drive down to the corner store to pick up a few essentials, consider getting a bike. You can take a pleasant ride and get in plenty of good exercise. With a basket on the bike, you can carry your purchases home with ease. If you live in a rural area, a bike can simply be a fun way to see the countryside. By the way – don’t forget to wear a helmet that has been properly fitted to protect you if you fall from your bike.

·         Wear a pedometer. While it can seem daunting to think about even 3,000 steps a day, wearing a pedometer for a while might be an eye-opening experience. You probably get more steps than you think you do! Rather than reaching for the pedometer before you step outside for a dedicated walk, try wearing it all the time. You’ll see how quickly the steps you take at home doing the day-to-day chores really add up. Alert1 offers an on-the-go wrist watch with a built-in pedometer and an SOS button—giving you the best of both worlds.

No matter what you’re doing to get in all that physical activity, it’s important to stay safe while doing so. A medical alert system with fall detection from Alert1 can help you do that. The fall detection feature means that the medical alert device you wear can call for help the moment you fall – so while you’re still getting your bearings and figuring out what just happened, the device has already sent an alert for help to trained professionals. A mobile, fall detection medical alert offers protection everywhere you go.

What better way to help ensure good health than staying safe while racking up your steps? Here’s to your health and safety!