SINGAPORE - Should you walk 10,000 steps a day to keep fit? Or are three brisk 10-minute walks a day better for your health?
A BBC report on Wednesday (Jan 31) has revealed that that those who did three short brisk walks a day, better known as the Active 10, gained greater health benefits.
The results were derived from a small experiment BBC had conducted with Sheffield Hallam University professor Rob Copeland.
Among the volunteers for the experiment was Nathan, a father of a six-year-old girl, who said: "She runs so fast, and I run so slowly, I can't catch up with her."
The volunteers were fitted with activity monitors, which not only allowed them to monitor what they did, but also how vigorously they did it.
After measuring a normal day's activity, they were split into two groups.
One was tasked to hit the 10,000-step target, which came up to around 8km in a day.
The other group was asked to do three sessions of Active 10, which added up to 3,000 steps or 2.4km.
Prof Copeland told the Active 10 group that their aim was to get their pace up to a level that would work their heart and lungs.
The BBC experiment found that two out of the three asked to do 10,000 steps had managed to hit their target, but not without some struggle.
The Active 10 group, on the other hand, had found it relatively easy.
In fact, they had formed a small walking group and met together at convenient times during their working day to go for a brisk walk together.
Furthermore, an analysis of the data showed that the Active 10 group did more moderate to vigorous physical activity than the other group.
This is despite the fact that they had moved for less time.
"And it's when you are doing moderate intensity activity that you are starting to get the greatest health benefits," said Prof Copeland.
He added that evidence has shown that increasing the heart rate can help to lower the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers.
Thus, three short brisk walks were easier to fit into the day and better for health.
Meanwhile, walking 10,000 steps was harder to achieve, and not as effective as it was supposed to be.
According to the BBC, the 10,000-step regime came about from a 1960s marketing campaign in Japan, which enjoyed considerable success.
A company had started promoting a health-conscious device called the Manpo-Kei in the lead up to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
"Man" means 10,000 in Japanese, while "po" means steps and "kei" means meter.
Dr Yoshiro Hatano, a young academic at Kyushu University of Health and Welfare, created the device as he wanted to help the Japanese get more active.
He believed that if he could persuade them to increase their daily steps from 4,000 to around 10,000 then they would burn off approximately 500 extra calories a day and remain slim.