Walking 10,000 steps per day has become as much of a wellness slogan. Much like “drink more water” or “eat your vegetables”. While the last two are backed up by a lot of evidence, the step count doesn’t.
Is it really worth it to attempt to hit that number?
What’s the Big Deal About 10,000 Steps a Day?
Despite the fact that 10,000 steps may appear to have been set by exercise specialists or public health experts, it was actually set by a marketing department. According to UC Davis Integrative Medicine, a Japanese device maker created the Manpo-Kei pedometer in 1965, which translates to “10,000 steps meter.”
The average person takes roughly 100 steps each minute and 2,000 steps per mile. So, depending on your stride length, attaining 10,000 steps would take about two hours and correspond to four to five miles every day.
However, on average, Americans receive only around half of it. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an average American takes between 4,000 and 5,000 steps each day. According to the National Institutes of Health, 2,000 steps a day is deemed “inactive,” while 10,000 steps or more is considered “extremely active.”
However, research suggests that the 10,000-point threshold should not be the ultimate goal. In fact, an older women’s study published in JAMA Internal Medicine in May 2019 indicated that taking as low as 4,400 steps per day was linked to a longer life span compared to those who were more sedentary. Plus, while the advantages increased as the number of steps increased, they tended to plateau around 7,500 steps.
How Many Steps You Should Take Each Day
While any amount of exercise is preferable to none, if you’re serious about setting a step target for yourself, you need to think about your present level of activity as well as your objective.
If you’re normally sedentary at 2,000 steps, for example, increasing your step count will help, but keep in mind that improvement is also dependent on how excellent those steps are. It’s quality, not quantity, that counts in fitness.
If you’re just dragging yourself around for 10,000 steps to claim you did it, that’s probably not the same as 5,000 steps taken with more intention and mindfulness. Even 2,000 steps can be beneficial if you feel better afterward and are using it as a baseline.
When it comes to determining how many steps you should take, the answer is: more. Each person will have a different starting point, and doing a little more every day is a better method than having a precise daily goal.
To improve your fitness, focus on consistency and moderate development, such as increasing your step count by 500 per day or measuring your progress over time, such as by adding 10 minutes per day. The advantage of smaller increments is that they accumulate and add up throughout the day.
How Many Steps a Day to Lose Weight?
Some study suggests that 10,000 steps as a weight-loss method cannot be your main strategy. A study published in the Journal of Obesity in December 2019 looked at 120 female freshmen who walked 10,000, 12,500, or 15,000 steps per day for six days per week throughout their first six months of college.
According to lead author Bruce Bailey, Ph.D., associate professor of exercise science at Brigham Young University, the goal of the study was to see if exceeding the 10,000-step standard would reduce the type of weight gain that is common among first-year university students, especially in the first few months of school.
The answer? No! Even students who walked 15,000 steps a day gained at least a few pounds, he says, adding that it’s possible that the more they walked, the more calories they consumed — an effect known as compensation theory.
More movement is beneficial for weight loss, but Bailey believes that walking alone will not suffice. Consider lowering calorie consumption and increasing strength training.
Why Does It Matter?
Increasing moderate exercise above 10,000 steps per day reduces inactive time and promotes moderate activity. It may have health advantages beyond weight loss. Maintaining that level of activity has numerous mental and physiological benefits.
Previous research supports this statement. Walking should be considered a key opportunity to help prevent and manage cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease is the top cause of death in the United States, according to a study published in May 2019 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It’s difficult to overestimate the health benefits of walking. It’s a full-body activity, so you’ll improve balance, posture, alignment, joint health, and mood while strengthening every major muscle group.
To begin, determine your current step count. If you don’t have access to a fitness tracker or pedometer app, you can start by walking the same path every day to gradually increase your distance. You should walk just enough to feel challenged, but not so much that you become exhausted or out of breath.
Don’t overdo it, especially if you’re not used to walking or if your weight is an issue. If necessary, take pauses along the way and create little daily goals rather than imposing enormous ones. The same is the case with how often should you weigh yourself.
Keep in mind that daily movement, in addition to dedicated walks, adds up. Your step count will organically increase if you eat “movement snacks” throughout the day. This way, you’ll be breaking up blocks of sedentary time.
Take some time to examine how you feel. It doesn’t matter what number you end up hitting by the end of the day. Walking and moving more will almost certainly have a positive impact on mood, energy levels, and sleep quality.
What matters most is how you feel, not what your fitness tracker reports.