We’ve all heard the advice to walk 10,000 steps a day. But where does this advice come from, is it accurate, and what are the benefits of tracking your step count to 10,000 every day?
The Goal Of 10,000 Steps A Day
The UK (and other countries) advise walking 10,000 steps per day as general public health advice. Our modern lives and busy schedules mean we don’t walk anything like as much as people did even 20 years ago. I agree that having a “step count” goal is a good idea.
But why 10,000 – and is this right for you?
Are You Sedentary Or Active?
Are you aware of how many steps you take on an average day? You can use a smart watch, your phone, or an activity tracker to find out.
Less than 5,000 steps per day is considered sedentary
5,000-7,499 is considered low activity
7,500-9,999 is considered active
10,000+ is considered highly active
BUT – it’s important to remember that these labels only refer to your step count. If you do a spin class and walk 7,000 steps a day, I wouldn’t say you are demonstrating “low activity”. It’s important to look at your total activity levels – with step count just one part of that.
However, your walking steps are an important part of your activity, and you should pay attention to how much you walk. I would always advise people to walk more, even if they exercise a lot. Walking has distinct benefits that you can’t replace with other forms of activity.
10 Big Health Benefits Of Walking
Walking is a fantastic form of exercise and crucially it’s something you can add into your routine without impacting the rest of your training.
This meta-analysis in the British Journal of Sports Medicine looked at the many health benefits of walking (1) which include:
- Improved fitness without demanding much recovery
- Great for your heart health and cardiovascular system
- It burns more calories than sitting on the couch (and you can do it for a long time)
- It’s kind to your joints
- You don’t need any special kit
- It’s relatively easy to fit into your day
- Walking is good for your posture and digestion
- It’s often a great way to tackle low mood, anxiety, or depression
- It has been shown to reduce risks of cancer and chronic disease
- If you walk outside, you’ll benefit from a healthy dose of Vitamin D.
How Many Calories Do 10,000 Steps Burn?
If you’re already walking 10,000 steps a day – congratulations.
It probably takes anything from 74-90 minutes, and is likely to burn an extra 150-300 calories a day depending on your body weight.
That’s in addition to all the other benefits listed above!
One Long Walk Vs Cumulative Steps
You can rack up 10,000 steps in one long walk, or by having a busy day where you barely have time to stop.
Does it matter how you accumulate your 10,000 steps?
The answer is no, it doesn’t matter – more walking is great, however you can achieve it.
But if you are able to go for at least one 30+ minute walk a day, you are likely to get the major fitness and cardiovascular benefits of the unbroken block of activity.
My advice is always to do what you can.
A less-than-perfect plan that you can actually do is far more useful than a “perfect” plan that you can’t actually achieve anyway.
Do what you can. Be as active as possible. But if you CAN go for a walk, grab the opportunity!
Can You Add 1,000 More Steps?
This literature review looked at ways to bridge the gap between an average “natural” step count of 5,000-6,000 and that 10,000 goal. (2)
Here are some ideas:
- A 15-minute walk at lunchtime
- A 30-minute walk before or after dinner
- Walking with a podcast/audiobook as learning/personal development time
- Running local errands on foot (car journeys of less than a mile)
- Walking to and from local friend/family houses
- Cleaning the house/vacuuming
- Gardening/mowing the lawn
How Many Steps Per Day Should You Aim For?
10,000 is the step count we all aim for.
But this study suggests that the big benefits of a step count plateau after 7,500 steps. (3)
Personally I think healthy adults should aim for 10,000 steps but commit to never dipping below 7,000 a day. If you do other forms of exercise – especially HIIT, team sports, or conditioning work – that takes the pressure off your step count.
But don’t use that as an excuse.
Walking has so many significant benefits to physical and mental health.
Embrace it and make walking more of a habit.
Not sure about how to use exercise to reach your fitness goals?
Drop me a line – I can help.