6 Daily Benchmarks That Aren't 10,000 Step

If you use a fitness tracker or step counter, chances are you've heard mention of that magical target of 10,000 daily steps. Since the 1960s launch of a Japanese pedometer called the manpo-kei (which means "10,000-step meter in English), that nice, round number has become the ubiquitous benchmark for sufficient daily activity. But is it really necessary for your footsteps to hit five-digit territory in order to reach your fitness goals?

While studies have shown that those who walk 10,000 steps each day see benefits in terms of blood pressure, body composition and serum lipid levels, and it is seen as comparable to the CDC's recommendation of 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity, that doesn't mean it has to be your sole benchmark. In fact, some research has shown that those who do more moderate to vigorous activity for shorter amounts of time may see better results.

If you simply don't have the time, mobility or inclination to do what is roughly the equivalent of five miles of running or walking, there are plenty of other daily measures of progress. And hey, if you've already joined the 10K step club and are looking to aim even higher, why not add one of these goals to the mix?

Stay hydrated.

You know it's important to drink enough water throughout the day, but many times it's difficult to remember to pick up that water bottle. Instead of remembering at the end of the day and guzzling a huge glass, make it a healthy self-competition to ensure you get plenty of H2O throughout the day. Set a daily goal for yourself and if you reach it, reward yourself with something special at the end of the week.

To know you're fueling your body with enough water, check in with the color of your urine. The goal is to have your urine look like a lemon was squeezed into it—any darker and it's time to drink a little more. Not only does staying properly hydrated lower blood pressure and ease irritability and stress, drinking plenty of water can help your body digest food and metabolizes fat. 

Break a sweat daily.

Hitting the gym or going for a run are great ways to take care of your body and your health, but they are not the only ways to be active, notes weight loss therapist Dr. Candice Seti. "The idea is that you want to try and break a sweat at some point every day—in any form or for any duration," she says. "That can mean a full-blown workout routine, or it could mean a bike ride, a one-person dance party in your bedroom or simply running up and down your stairs for a bit. The idea is simply to get that heart working and that blood pumping at some point throughout the day—every day."

Show up consistently.

Whatever the chosen activity—strength training, cardio, stretching, balance—health coach Liza Baker says the most important benchmark is perhaps the most obvious one: Do you show up consistently for yourself?

"As a health coach, I find that the easiest way to reach this benchmark is to start where you are: Can you commit to one day? Or two, or three?" says Baker. "Write it down as an appointment, much as you would a meeting at work. Then treat it as a non-negotiable: This is your appointment with and for yourself! Once you can be consistent for a month, up the mark by once a week, and so on."

Eat produce at every meal.

"Fruits and vegetables are the healthiest things you can put into your body," notes Dr. Seti.

They are chock-full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber—everything your body needs."

Despite the bevy of benefits, most of us don’t get enough produce in our diets. Dr. Seti recommends setting a goal of including at least one fruit or veggie at every meal. For breakfast, that might mean adding berries to your oatmeal or spinach to your omelet. For lunch, you could eat a generously sized salad or add sliced cucumber and peppers to your sandwich. For dinner, try zucchini noodles or broccoli casserole. And, of course, fruit always makes a satisfying and sensible dessert.

Incorporate muscle-strengthening exercises.

At least two to three days per week, experts recommend adding some strength training exercises to work all major muscle groups, targeting the legs, arms, back, core, chest and shoulders. Rounding out your cardio with some weight work will build more muscle tissue, speed up metabolism and increase bone density.

Prioritize sleep.

Your waking choices make a big impact on your weight and health, but sleep is also essential to any healthy lifestyle. Dr. Seti notes that sleep deprivation or irregular sleep patterns have been linked to weight gain risk, increased snacking, increased cravings, lower metabolism, lower willpower for junk food, increased stress levels, lower insulin sensitivity and less fat burning.

"Prioritizing sleep means making sure you are giving yourself enough sleep time and engaging in proper 'sleep hygiene,'" she says. "This means limiting caffeine late in the day; making your room dark, quiet, and cool; minimizing blue light exposure before bed; and making your sleeping space as comfortable as possible." Check out these nine tips for getting more (and better) sleep.

Although 10,000 steps is definitely a significant daily accomplishment in terms of staying active and strengthening your cardiovascular system, it doesn't have to be the end-all, be-all of exercise goals. By pairing your forward movement with some other healthy activity targets, you can step that much closer to where you want to be.

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Member Comments

I really need to up my water intake but because I work in a school, I can't drink to much until 4:00. After doing that I'm up all night peeing. Lol. Wish we'r could go back to summer. Report
Great ideas. Report
Really great ideas in here! I am VERY active & my fitbit said I never went over 5,000 steps. I unplugged it. It was taking away my quality of life, as I was SO hooked on trying to keep up with it. Report
I go with the urine color theory to get my daily water content. I drink a minimum of 64 oz a day. If my urine is a very pale yellow, I’m good. If it darkens, I increase my water intake. Since water and coffee are the only two things I drink on a daily basis, I feel sufficient,y hydrated at this level. Report
Personally, I think for me, 80 oz. (10-8 oz. cups of water) thru the day is what is best for me. We have to find that balance while not OVERHYDRATING, which is also dangerous.

Otherwise, great article! Report
good advice to follow. i'll never do 10000 steps a day but can do most of these items. thanks Report
Thank you for debunking the notion that 10,000 steps a day is nirvana. It’s as individual as we are; my goal is to be fit without hastening the shelf life of my bionic knees. I appreciate the practical advice that is given in this article. However, that much water? Hmmmm, otherwise I really like the info provided. Report
i struggle to get 10k steps a day. some days i am lucky if i break 3...others i go over 10 and do really great. i need to step it up. Report
Thank you Report
I agree with others about the bad water tip! That IS dangerous! 8 glasses a day is enough for any person and a LITTLE more is ok ~9-10, but you are going OVERBOARD to drink 90 oz. a day or to take thast poor ,misguided advice!! Report
Thanks. Report
I like this information Report
That water tip is b.s. and can be dangerous! There is such a thing as HYPONATREMIA! It can cause the level of electrolytes in your blood to drop too low. It can be fatal. 8-8-oz glasses per day is fine. No one needs to be drinking more than a half-gallon of water per day, unless you are sweating A LOT from exercise or hot weather. If you drink that much, and you are still thirsty, you might have diabetes! Report
There's just so much more than weight lost, dieting and fitness, SparkFriends. It's also having the right attitude and mindset. We can do it! Report
Thanks Report


 

About The Author

Melissa Rudy
Melissa Rudy
A lifelong Cincinnatian, Melissa earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from University of Cincinnati before breaking into online writing in 2000. As a Digital Journalist for SparkPeople, she enjoys helping others meet their wellness goals by writing about all aspects of healthy living. An avid runner and group fitness addict, Melissa lives in Loveland with her guitarist husband and three feisty daughters.