Tracking steps in an era of fitness monitors and smart watches is easy but 20 years ago in central Queensland it took a whole-of-community approach to take the public along on the now widely adopted 10,000 Steps Project.

Key points:

  • From local beginnings, the 10,000-steps promotion has become a byword for all-ages activity
  • Nationally, it has amassed 280 billion steps, 225 kilometres and more than half a million members
  • The project received a boost during the pandemic with 60,000 new members signing up

But from those humble beginnings in Rockhampton, the program has grown and evolved to clock 280 billion steps and more than half a million members nationally. 

Central Queensland University’s Corneel Vandelanotte, lead researcher behind the program, said when it began as a two-year trial in Rockhampton in 2001, the team had no idea how well it would catch on develop real staying power.  

“Everyone was involved,” Mr Vandelanotte said. 

“The GPs, the supermarkets, the pharmacists, local councils. It was everywhere.”

“The initial project was so popular that the Queensland government decided, ‘We want to keep this going, but we want you to roll it out to the entire state’.

“That’s when the program morphed into an online program.”

Selfie of a man and a woman smiling at the camera on a hill in front of a pristine beach

Mr Vandelanotte and his family check off their steps in Queensland’s most beautiful national parks.(Supplied: Corneel Vandelanotte)

Steps to success

Mr Vandelanotte said the secret to the program’s success was simplicity. 

“It’s such an intuitive idea, [and] walking is the most popular physical activity of any activity,” he said.

“[Many people] can do it, you can do it almost anywhere, you need almost no equipment, so the barriers to start walking are really low.

“There’s great health benefits to be had from walking, even if you’re not huffing and puffing and sweating.”

He said last year the program received a huge boost during COVID lockdowns with 60,000 new members signing up. 

Despite only being funded to deliver the program in Queensland and South Australia, Mr Vandelanotte said they still had members from New South Wales and Victoria joining.

He said recent surveys also showed about 80 per cent of Australians had heard of the 10,000 steps program. 

Young boy with a hat walks through field of spinifex with blue sky

Corneel Vandelanotte’s four-year-old son accompanied his parents on their holiday hike, trekking 360,000 steps in four weeks across numerous Queensland national parks. (Supplied: Corneel Vandelanotte )

Holiday trekking

Unsurprisingly, the researcher and hiking enthusiast recently completed 360,000 steps walking through regional Queensland’s national parks with his partner and four-year-old son. 

“I was pretty impressed by him,” he said.

“We had to make sure he was really interested and excited in what we were going to do, because otherwise it just gets really boring really quickly for a four-year-old.”

Mr Vandelanotte said he and his partner were encouraging the same passion they had for the outdoors in their son.

“He was walking the Bluff Walk in Yeppoon since he was two, so slowly, gently, we’ve been pushing the barriers a bit further so he still likes it.”  

Posted , updated 

How 10,000 steps turned into 280 billion for a health promotion that’s become a walk in the park
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