The first step is the hardest. Do we need 10,000?

By Jaconel Janssen

It is January. It is cold, it’s raining, and it doesn’t seem to get too bright. Kids are back at school and left over mince pies are looking at me. Emails are telling me to find my ‘new year, new me’. Come on now, we have had a tough year, it is cold and dark. Can I just keep hibernating?

However tempting, that is probably not a great idea. I may not be ready to go full speed ahead yet, and instead would cherish some more hibernation. But I know I feel better when I start moving a bit more. Small steps.

Did you know the 10,000 step recommendation was actually the result of a 1960s marketing campaign in Japan? An early pedometer was marketed around the time of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. It was thought that by persuading people to increase their daily steps from 4,000 to around 10,000, they would burn off approximately 500 extra calories a day and remain slim. That apparently was how the 10,000 steps a day regime was born.

I saw an excellent programme last year, ‘The truth about getting fit’. In a small experiment Prof. Rob Copeland from Sheffield Hallam University compared the benefits and ease of doing 10,000 steps against Active 10. The Active 10 group didn’t count steps, but simply aimed to do three brisk 10 minute walks a day. The aim was to pace it up, walking ‘fast enough that you can still talk, but not sing’.

The findings from the experiment were very interesting. Even though the Active 10 group moved for less time, they actually did 30 per cent more 'moderate to vigorous physical activity' than the 10,000 step group, getting great health benefits for their heart and lungs.

Before you walk out the door and put your best foot forward, let’s have a quick look at walking posture and technique.

Imagine a piece of string from the crown of your head, lengthening up to the sky. Stack your ears above your shoulders and hips, chin parallel to the ground. Relax your shoulders and let your arms swing freely from your shoulders.

Push off with the rear foot, and make the walking step a rolling motion. Roll from heel to toe, avoid landing flat-footed with a thud. Push off with your toes. Then bring the back leg forward to strike again with the heel. Speed it up, not making your stride too big.

If like me you don’t really like counting steps, it is good to know that you can get similar health benefits from three ten-minute brisk walks a day. And short walks are easier to fit in, especially on a dark January day. Happy New Year!

Classes will start up again on 17 January. Why not get a Movement Bundle, short videos to get you started and keep you moving well?

Jaconel Janssen is a Pilates and Buff Bones teacher and founder of Pilates People Cork. She teaches regular movement classes in Cork (Douglas area), both in person and online, and a regular outdoor class. For more on classes or one-to-one sessions, visit or Facebook Pilates People Cork or contact or 085-1613505.