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Walking is Man’s Best Medicine, Hippocrates

The positive effects of walking have been around as early as 460 B.C. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, understood the medicinal benefits of walking.  There was no pedometer, smartphone apps, or FitBits during his time; however, it was through his observations of the overall health benefits derived from waking.   However, it was not until 1965 when a pedometer known as “Manpo-Kei” (10,000-step meter) made it possible to count steps.  The inventor Dr. Yoshiro Hatano, a professor of health science, believed walking 10,000 steps a day would help the Japanese people avoid obesity. It is the results of Dr. Hatano’s marketing strategies for the meter where we obtain the practice, and the concept of walking 10,000 steps a day promotes weight loss and overall good health. 

Data on the medicinal benefits of walking is evident in several studies.  According to a 2011 research review published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 10,000 steps is a reasonable target for healthy adults.  However, there is a step-age-related factor.  A recent evidence-based research study shows the more steps older women >72 years take per day are beneficial by decreasing overall mortality rates.  The study, however, recommends for older women to aim for 7500 steps vs. 10,000 steps.

Achieving 10,000 steps a day is not as difficult as one may think.  I wear my pedometer daily and average about 6,000 steps, which expands to 10,000 with an intentional 30-minute walk before lunch with a group of friends.  Typically, research shows most of us achieve at least 4,000 to 6,000 steps going through our daily activities. If you are having problems reaching 10,000 steps per day, here are a few suggestions on ways to increase levels:

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator (up or down)
  • Stand up or walk while talking on the phone
  • Walk during lunch breaks
  • Try to get at least 250 steps every hour
  • Walk down the hall to speak to co-workers vs. emailing or phoning
  • Walk extra laps when you are at the mall or grocery store
  • Vacuum, sweep, mop your house
  • Park your car at a further distance
  • Utilize the gym or treadmill when possible
  • Cut your lawn or start gardening
  • Wash and clean your car
  • Walk your pet longer distances

The most impactful health improvements derived from walking are:

  • improving glycemic control for those with diabetes
  • reduces the risk of dying from heart disease
  • reduces high blood pressure
  • helps control weight
  • reduces the risk of developing colon cancer

As we move into a new decade, let us rededicate our commitments of making positive lifestyle modifications.  The body thieves when it receives proper Nutrition and Exercise.   As we look forward to achieving optimum health and well-being, remember, “walking is man’s best medicine.”  The more you move, the more you improve as we “walk into health in 2020”.