I tried to walk 30,000 steps a day. It changed the way I sleep

I previously set a challenge to walk 15,000 steps a day for a week and completed it, pleased with the results. So I challenged myself again: to walk 30,000 steps a day for two weeks.

Getting enough steps can be challenging, but I found it possible by breaking it into smaller blocks, like taking short walks during work breaks or between calls.

I usually average about 12,000 steps per day, so I had to make a conscious effort to increase this number. Adding some runs also increased my step count, although that’s not necessarily the best way to get more steps.

I realized that I had to fully engage in this challenge. Walking an average of 30,000 steps a day seems unrealistic for someone with a busy daily life. And the studies I read showed that just an average increase of 2,500 steps a day provided benefits.

However, I chose to push the boundaries to observe any physical changes.

On the left, Jade Alvares, who challenged herself to walk 30,000 steps a day for two weeks. She says it improved her sleep. Well, a shared image of a woman walking.
Jade Alvares/Yulia Pilipeichenko

There was a huge difference in my daily step count over the course of two weeks. The data revealed ups and downs in my walking routine; Some days I walked more than 30,000 steps, and some days even less. On some, I exceeded 40,000 steps; On others, I managed about 17,000.

On average, I made it approx. The average daily walk was 29,600 steps in the first week and 29,466 steps in the second week. To overcome this deficiency, I significantly increased my walking distance on the fifteenth day, which brought my average up.

The purpose of this was to explore the effects of increasing my walking activity. Walking has many well-known scientifically supported benefits, such as improved stress levels and heart health, and the release of endorphins.

But it also has some lesser-known benefits, like improving sleep quality due to exposure to morning sunlight, which I took inspiration from from neuroscientist Andrew Huberman.

What better way to get some sunlight than a morning walk?

There are many reasons for my walking. But one of my biggest problems is managing sleep difficulties; I have a lot of trouble sleeping, and taking a walk really helps.

A recent Hungarian study showed significant improvements in sleep quality among individuals who increased their daily steps.

It involved two groups of sedentary people aged 19 to 36. Half of them were instructed to walk 8,000 to 10,000 steps a day for four weeks and then report on sleep-related issues; The other group didn’t change anything about their activity or habits.

By the end of the study, it became clear that walking improved all aspects of sleep quality.

The most obvious reason why increasing the frequency of walking can have a positive effect on your sleep is due to physical fatigue, which is widely recognized.

But walking, like other forms of physical activity, affects a range of chemicals in the brain, including cell signaling proteins and brain neurotransmitters.

Researchers believe this effect also enhances sleep quality. Additionally, physical activity is known to reduce levels of depression and anxiety, which often significantly interfere with sleep.

Additionally, walking increases the levels of a molecule called BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor). BDNF plays an important role in the functioning and development of brain cells.

Therefore, one of the most effective ways to stimulate neuroplasticity is walking, especially brisk walking.

As the brain registers this physical activity, it adapts by forming new neural connections. These connections not only improve cognitive abilities but also strengthen areas of the brain that are prone to age-related decline.

In another interesting study conducted by neuroscientists at Duquesne University, women were asked to walk three, five, and ten times over the course of a week, with each walking session lasting about 30 minutes at a moderate pace.

The researchers then assessed the women’s pain perception when exposed to heat and pressure.

Remarkably, the results showed that those who walked five to ten times a week experienced a 60 percent reduction in pain perception after walking compared to their initial pain levels at the beginning of the study.

The researchers conducted the same tests in all groups to measure individual pain tolerance, and these tests were repeated throughout the study.

The underlying cause of this reduction in pain sensation appears to be linked to an increase in certain brain chemicals, known as the endogenous opioid system, which is activated by movement. This system works like the body’s natural pain relief mechanism.

Interestingly, studies show that you don’t need to be a runner to activate these endorphins; Walking can have a similar effect. Additionally, there is evidence that the more a person walks, the higher their pain tolerance becomes.

A big issue with modern lifestyles is their tendency to encourage being sedentary, especially for people with desk jobs like me. But it is now common knowledge that walking is healthier for your body.

Many people fall into the trap of going to the gym for an hour and doing intense exercise and then sitting for the rest of the day. However, this does not compensate for the negative aspects of sitting for long periods of time.

Walking cures the diseases that can occur from sitting for long periods of time.

A 2010 study of 123,216 men and women conducted by the American Cancer Society found that sitting for a large portion of waking time sharply increased the risk of dying.

Men and women who sat more than six hours a day were 18 percent and 37 percent more likely to die, respectively, than those who sat less than three hours a day.

What really caught my attention was that the negative effects were just as intense in people who exercised regularly. That study was really shocking to me. It was saying that even if you exercise regularly, it is not enough if you sit for long periods of time.

Additionally, jogging, walking, trekking – no matter how you do it, walking extends your hips and lengthens tissues shortened by sitting, and brings your body back into biomechanical balance.

The feet alone have 26 bones, 30 joints, and more than 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments, all of which benefit from the forces and contractions of walking.

Additionally, walking helps remove cellular waste, enhancing exercise adaptations by stimulating the lymphatic system.

I was curious whether physical changes would be more noticeable in a shorter period of two weeks.

During this experiment I lost two kilograms of weight. I’m not sure if it’s fat loss, but I definitely feel leaner. This reminds me of the time I did the 15,000 step challenge. At that time, I actually gained weight because I felt so hungry.

However, in this experiment, I lost weight because I walked a large number of steps, much more than in normal life. I don’t plan on walking 30,000 steps a day. It feels like a big commitment, constantly checking my Fitbit app.

Some days, I don’t feel like walking at all. I would rather stay at home and watch Netflix. This is unusual for me, but I’ve been walking so much lately that I needed a change.

Still, walking has been a great way to meet friends. We either walk together or I talk to him on the phone while walking. Before I know it, I’ve walked 10,000 steps.

I’m just grateful to have the ability to walk.

Jade Alvares creates fitness and physical challenge videos on her YouTube channel, Jade’s Fitness Bucket List.

All views expressed are the author’s own.

Do you have a unique experience or personal story to share? Email the My Turn team at myturn@newsweek.com.