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The 10,000 steps prescribed for weight loss or aerobic fitness has been validated many times to be both effective and reliable and correlates well with aerobic fitness. However, what if both you and your clients can’t achieve this due to being stuck in your homes because of the Coronavirus? Dr. Paul Batman has some ideas for you.

It is beyond debate that there should always be a physical activity component included in all weight-loss programmes. Not so much to make a huge contribution to energy expended but to also provide major health benefits that even weight loss might not provide. The physical activity only needs to be performed at low to moderate levels of intensity, so we are not talking about high-intensity fitness activities or gym activity alternatives.

Clients most surely want to lose weight but, at the same time, they also want to improve their health. What better way to achieve this than starting a sensible eating plan and using walking as the main type of physical activity? But what happens if for some reason – as in the case of the pandemic we are now facing – we can’t walk or don’t want to walk: what is our destiny?

Can we gain the same result as the 10,000 steps simply by pottering around the house?

Remember that there are very serious issues to contend with by sitting too much, even in the presence of major weight loss. Sedentary people spend on average up to 10 hours a day at the lowest level of metabolism.

I was in a similar position some time ago. After surgery, I had difficulty in continuously walking, although my knee was quite strong. So, I decided to look for alternatives to walking 10,000 steps. I thought long and hard as to how I could equate any other movement to the 10,000 steps model.

I decided to calculate the number of kcal expended in 10,000 steps and then see if I could equate it with other activities I do around the house. I weigh 80kg and am 179cm tall. I calculated that an 80kg person in walking 10,000 steps (which is approximately 8km) would take 80 minutes if walked at 6km/h. OK, sounds good, but what if I walked faster at 8km/h to cover the 10,000 steps in 60 minutes?

I calculated that if I walked at 6km/h I would expend approximately 370kcal in walking for 80 minutes. I also calculated that if I walked at 8km per hour I would expend 378kcal in walking for 60 minutes. What could I do around the house without going anywhere and expend the same amount of kcal that I would get from walking 10,000 steps?

I decided to calculate how much energy (kcal expended) it would take to sweep the floor, sweep the garage, rake the leaves, mow the lawn and carry some bricks that I had to move around the garden. So, I swept the floors of the house for 15 minutes, swept the garage for 15 minutes, raked the leaves in the garden for 15 minutes, mowed the lawn for 30 minutes and carried bricks from one spot to another for 60 minutes.

To my amazement, I calculated that I expended 70kcal sweeping the house, 84kcal sweeping the garage, 84kcal raking the leaves, 189kcal mowing the lawn and 672kcal carrying and moving bricks from one place to another.

The total number of kcal I expended in 2.5 hours was 1,099 by just completing household activities.

If I go back and just equate my household activities with the time to complete 10,000 steps, I would have completed these tasks (sweeping, raking, mowing) in 75 minutes and expended 427kcal in comparison to expending 370kcal walking 10,000 steps at 6km/h or 380kcal walking at 8km/h for 60 minutes.

How can this be?

In all my household activities I used both my arms and legs, with the additional movements of bending, striding, picking, pushing, squatting, lunging, etc. These additional movements produced greater energy expenditure than walking alone.

I think that 10,000 steps is an excellent exercise prescription that is universally accepted as a legitimate form of physical activity for weight loss and general fitness. However, there are some people who might find it a little too daunting, unsafe or time poor to commit to walking the 10,000 steps, etc. Now there is an alternative for them, as well as giving the 10,000 step walkers the chance to move more and burn more energy!

This teaches us never to underestimate the energy expended in lifestyle movements as a legitimate player in the weight-loss and health equation. Making a choice to include lifestyle physical activity into our weight-loss journey in combination with our 10,000 steps is a great opportunity to use heaps more additional energy that can contribute to our weight-loss goal – and can help us to stay healthy in these difficult times.


About the Author

Dr Paul Batman

Exercise physiologist, academic and writer

Dr. Paul Batman has worked in health, fitness and sport for over 40 years. Originally a Physical Education teacher and then an Academic lecturing in Exercise Science at Australian Universities for over 20 years and for the last 18 years as owner and operator of two successful Registered Training Organisations (Fitness Institute Australia and Australian College) specializing in developing and delivering vocational educational courses in health, fitness and sport to thousands of fitness professionals. Paul received his Diploma of Physical Education from Australian College of Physical Education, Diploma of Education from Hawthorn State College, BSc and MSc from the University of Oregon (USA) and a PhD from the University of New South Wales. For over 25 years Paul has presented at international conventions in Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, Singapore and Malaysia and conducted lectures, workshops and in house presentations in many countries throughout the world. In 2012 Paul was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award for his services to the Australian Fitness Industry, inducted into the Australian College of Physical Education Hall of Fame and recognized as an Institute Scholar at the International Institute for Sport and Human Performance, University of Oregon. Paul has written over a hundred articles on all aspects health and fitness and authored or co-authored 10 books.

Key expertise:

  • Exercise Physiologist, University Academic, Vocational Educator, Researcher, Writer, Conference Presenter


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