"Happy feet": evaluating the benefits of a 100-day 10,000 step challenge on mental health and wellbeing

BMC Psychiatry. 2018 Jan 24;18(1):19. doi: 10.1186/s12888-018-1609-y.


Background: An increased awareness of the health benefits of walking has emerged with the development and refinement of accelerometer equipment. Evidence is beginning to highlight the value of promoting walking, particularly focusing on the Japanese mark of obtaining 10,000 steps per day. Workplace based step challenges have become popular to engage large cohorts in increasing their daily physical activity in a sustainable and enjoyable way. Findings are now highlighting the positive health effects of these medium-term programs (typically conducted over a few months) in terms of cardiovascular health, reducing diabetes risk and improving lifestyle factors such as weight and blood pressure. As yet, research has not focused on whether similar improvements in psychological health and wellbeing are present.

Methods: This study investigated the impact of a 100-day, 10,000 step program on signs of depression, anxiety and stress as well as general wellbeing using standardised psychological scales.

Results: The results indicated a small but consistent effect on all of these measures of mental health over the term of the program. This effect appeared irrespective of whether a person reached the 10,000 step mark.

Conclusions: These results highlight improved mental health and wellbeing in people undertaking this 100-day 10,000 step program and indicates the efficacy and potential of these programs for a modest, yet important improvement in mental health. Notably, targets reached may be less important than participation itself.

Keywords: Anxiety; Depression; Health promotion; Physical activity; Stress; Wellbeing.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accelerometry
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology*
  • Depressive Disorder / therapy
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Female
  • Health Status Indicators*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychometrics
  • Walking*
  • Young Adult