Does 10,000 Steps Work For Weight Loss?

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Stand-up comedian and MAN v FAT member Freddy Quinne is currently challenging himself to a no-gym weight loss experiment. Rather than spending £30 per month on a gym, he’s spending the same budget on an alternative healthy device. This month he’s spent his cash on a pedometer. 

The Chinese philosopher and founder of Taoism Lao Tzu once said “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. With this in mind, for my first month of getting fit without a gym I decided to get a pedometer and challenge myself to be active by walking 10,000 steps a day.

The first surprise is that it turns out the idea that you should walk 10,000 steps in a day is one of those common fitness myths that’s been indoctrinated into our culture, despite little scientific evidence to back it up. The figure actually comes from a brand of pedometers sold in Japan in the 1960s called “manpo-kei”, which literally translates to “10,000 steps meter”. Studies were then carried out that showed walking 10,000 steps a day had significant health benefits, such as reduced blood pressure and improved glucose levels. The reality is that any significant increase in mobility is likely to carry similar health benefits.omron

So how many steps should you walk? The average adult in America walks 5,900 steps per day, but the guideline set by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention recommends between 7,000 and 8,000 steps per day, which equates to around 150 minutes of moderate activity per week.

To find out just how easy this was to achieve and whether or not it’s a suitable alternative to going to the gym, I invested in an Omron pedometer which is available online for under £20. My first impression was that you got quite a nifty piece of kit for half the price of one month’s average gym membership. The device feels well built and comes with a ton of functions. It’s accurate, too. I tried walking round the house counting my steps as I went, and the Omron kept count flawlessly.

So, did it work? I have to admit, for the first three days I found this amazing. I was finding any excuse to go for walks to get my step count up, even walking round to the supermarket instead of driving. It’s not easy to clock 10,000 steps a day, but it’s certainly an achievable target providing you make a conscious effort to increase your activity levels any chance you get. I was losing weight, too. After 5 days I’d lost 4lbs.

Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, turns out it is. As soon as I became busy with work or social commitments, I found meeting my 10,000 step target to be increasingly difficult. It’s all well and good maximising your opportunities for being active, but it’s a thousand times more difficult to create those opportunities without compromising other areas of your life. The weather is another issue – it’s a heck of a lot easier to get your step target when it’s a nice hot day, but try doing it when it’s pissing it down. This kind of workout is very much at the mercy of having absolutely no other plans and a favourable weather forecast. It took me five days to lose my 4lbs, but only two days of inactivity to put it all back on.

By the end of the second week, the Omron pedometer was starting to do my head in. Occasionally I’d forget it and leave it at home. Sometimes I’d feel it dig into the side of my hips when I sat down. Eventually, I just stopped wearing it. I ended up downloading a pedometer app on my phone, which did exactly the same job and also provided me with historical data I could view on my phone. I found this far more useful than the Omron, providing more features and tracking my steps in a less obtrusive way. Plus it’s free to download most pedometer apps on android or iPhone.

There are certain circumstances where I’d recommend having a pedometer and trying to make 10,000 steps per day to lose weight. I imagine it’d be quite useful if you were on holiday and wanted a way of keeping active while you were away. But in my opinion it’s just not sustainable for anyone with jobs, relationships, kids, a social life or anything else that’s even slightly demanding.

Challenge progress:

Weigh in June 1st – 114.5 kg

Weigh in June 30th – 114.2 kg

Do you track your steps? Got any tips on how to hit the magic 10k, or manpo-kei as we will now call it? Any suggestions for what Freddy should spend his budget on next month?


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