10,000 strong: Simple 'steps' to encourage health living

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
A local doctor said that 8,000-10,000 steps a day can help lead to a healthier lifestyle.

Note: This story first appeared in Grayson Magazine.

One of the key ways to remain healthy and active is to stay on your feet— figuratively and literally. As a part of a healthy lifestyle, doctors recommend taking at least 8,000 to 10,000 steps in an average day in an effort to remain active, regardless of age.

For many years Duke Carlson, a family doctor with TexomaCare Family Medicine, has recommended increasing the number of steps and walking each day to many of his patients.

“Following patients as I have, the amount of activity they are engaged in makes a big difference (in their health),” Carlson said.

As a part of visits, Carlson traditionally would prescribe his patients a healthy dose of exercise. For most patients this would translate to about 10,000 steps. This has proven to be popular with some patients who like to set a goal that can easily be tracked.

“Patients really like to have a concrete number for the number of steps,” he said.

Some older patients would be prescribed about 6,000 to 8,000 steps. Others still would be recommended less, but this was based more on lifestyle and health rather than age.

“Aging doesn’t make it where you can’t do steps,” he said, noting that it is arthritis and other health conditions that often come with age that prevent the exercise.

As an example, Carlson said his mother-in-law, who is 85, gets in her 10,000 steps each day, with most of the exercise being done within her own home. Carlson said she uses a treadmill, but also walks in place while she is on the phone and paces throughout the day.

“You can march in pace in front of the TV,” he said. “You can go to Walmart and do two laps around the building before you do your shopping.”

However, in recent years Carlson said he has looked at shinrin-yoku, also known as “forest bathing,” as an alternative to counting steps. The practice, which originates in Japan, encourages people to get out and immerse themselves in nature under a canopy of trees.

During the current COVID-19 pandemic, Carlson said getting out and enjoying nature can have its own health benefits while also having therapeutic benefits and encouraging people to relax.

With regard to those who are working from home during the pandemic, Carlson encouraged them to find ways to work in simple steps throughout the day. This could include taking small breaks for exercise, using lunch breaks to get steps in, or walking in place while standing and working.

“If you think about it, human beings aren’t designed to have a 45 minute period of exercise and be sedentary for the rest of the day,” he said. “Human beings in our history have activity peppered throughout the day with our history as hunters, gatherers and farmers.”

As an example, Carlson said his brother-in-law has started working from home during the pandemic and is not avoiding the 45 minute commute to work.

“That adds another hour and a half in your schedule where you get your exercising done,” he said.