Why experts say it’s time to forget hitting 10,000 steps on your Fitbit

In a recent statement, Public Health England (PHE) and Royal College of GPs are encouraging adults to focus on walking briskly, rather than focusing on getting to the distance of 10,000 steps each day.

This shift looks at the intensity of the exercise, not the duration, with new guidelines focusing on how 10 minutes of brisk walking gets the heart rate up and breathing faster. This moderate intensity exercise is thought to be a better way to introduce exercise, helping adults reduce their risk of early death by up to 15%.

Related: The Runner’s World 6 week plan to running your first mile 

To help adults do this, Public Health England have launched a new ‘Active 10’ app that combines intensity and time, rather than just distance. Encouraging the nation to take a brisk, 10 minute walk per day is seen to be a good first step to reach the recommended 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week.

But what does this mean for those of you who are hitting 10,000 steps a day? Tracking distance is still a good way to start exercising, especially if you’re building up this distance week by week. Yet as well as distance, PHE are encouraging the public to raise their heart rate by increasing the intensity of these steps. If you’re already walking briskly, why not try jogging slowly for 10 minutes each day to raise your heart rate? Read our tips on running your first mile here. 

Related: Are you ready to run your first mile? Your questions, answered

Interestingly, Public Health England also released the findings of their recent survey that looked at people’s perceptions to physical activity. The results found that most people surveyed (31%) cited not having enough time to exercise as the main reason they didn’t do it, followed by not feeling motivated (27%).

Whilst nine out of ten of those surveyed (87%) said they walked for more than 10 minutes per day, just over half (54%) said they walked briskly for that amount of time.

At present in the UK, physical inactivity contributes to 1 in 6 deaths and costs the NHS over £0.5 billion per year. Through programmes such as “Active 10”, Public Health England are hoping to encourage the nation to be more active.

Professor Paul Cosford, Medical Director at PHE, said: “Managing all the pressures of everyday life can mean that exercise takes a back seat, but building a brisk walk into your daily routine is a simple way to get more active.

“The Active 10 app gives you a clear picture of the intensity of your walk. Taking a brisk 10 minute walk each day will get your heart pumping, improve your mood and lower the risk of serious health issues like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.”

According to gov.uk, 600,000 people have already downloaded the ‘Active 10’ app, and more than 2 million active 10-minute walks were recorded in the first month. The app is free on both iOS and Andriod app stores.