Healthy Steps: Get Walking to Lose Weight
10,000 Steps Daily Helps Midlife Women Lose Weight
WebMD News Archive
May 6, 2004 -- Strap on the pedometer: Walking 10,000 steps
daily helps greatly with weight loss, according to a new study. That's about
five miles -- but over a day's time, it's possible, experts say.
Regular exercise has long been known to burn calories. Studies
have shown that people who exercise regularly have less body fat, especially in
the belly. Fat in the belly is linked to heart disease risk.
But the question has been: Exactly how much walking works?
This is the first study to specifically look at that figure,
writes lead researcher Dixie L. Thompson, PhD, with the Center for Physical
Activity and Health at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Her study
appears in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports &
"Pedometers have become increasingly popular devices for
public use," writes Thompson. "These devices are relatively
inexpensive, are unobtrusive, and provide immediate feedback to the
wearer." They also provide a relatively accurate report of overall calorie
Among women over age 40, walking has been known to make a
difference, reports Thompson. She set out to give midlife women a "walking
formula" for weight loss.
Getting the Figure
In her study, 80 women -- average age 50 years old -- wore a
pedometer every day for seven days. But before they started, researchers
measured their height, weight, body mass index (BMI, a measure of body fat), as
well as waist and hips (to determine belly fat).
Women wore their pedometers on their waistband. Every evening,
they noted the number of steps they walked that day. Every morning, they reset
the pedometers. They did nothing different, in terms of exercise -- just
followed their typical work and leisure routines.
At the end of seven days, it was obvious: Women who walked more
had less body fat, lower body mass index (BMI), and a lower waist/hip
circumference, writes Thompson.
BMI, waist circumference, and waist-to-hip ratio are measures
of obesity. A BMI of more than 25 is considered overweight, and more than 30 is
obese. In men, having a waist more than 40 inches or waist-to-hip ratio more
than 0.95 increases the risk of health problems. In women,
it's 35 inches and 0.80.
The average sedentary person walks 2,000-3,000 steps per
In this study, women walking:
Less than 6,000 steps had a BMI of 29, 44% body fat, a 37-inch
waist, 42-inch hips, and a 0.87 waist-to-hip ratio.
6,000 to 10,000 steps had a BMI of 26, 35% body fat, a 32-inch
waist, 40-inch hips, and a 0.80 waist-to-hip ratio.
10,000 steps or more had a BMI of 23, 26% body fat, a 29-inch
waist, 39-inch hips, and a 0.75 waist-to-hip ratio.
"Those who walked less had more total fat, and more
centrally located fat," Thompson writes. The health implications (heart
disease and type 2 diabetes) caused by this excess fat make her study
important, she adds.