Walking is one of the best exercises you can do. This activity is accessible to almost anyone, it does not require special physical abilities, it’s low-impact and entirely free. Most importantly, it comes with a ton of physical and mental health benefits.
We know by now that physical activity is essential to our health. We need to walk on a regular basis to keep our bodies in shape and improve our mental wellbeing. But how many steps should you take a day to maximize the benefits of walking? Is there a specific number you should reach? Well, there isn’t a simple answer. Keep on reading to see why.
Is 10,000 Steps the Magic Number?
When you read about step counting, there’s one figure that always comes forward: 10,000. By doing a simple online research you’ll find numerous articles that recommend taking 10,000 steps each day for better fitness and health.
So who’s responsible for this step target? Is it science-based? Well, in 1965 the Japanese company Yamasa Toki released a pedometer called Manpo-kei, which translates into “10,000-step meter”. The company decided to promote the fitness device using the slogan “Let’s walk 10,000 steps a day”, a round, easy-to-remember number. The idea quickly caught on among walking enthusiasts and has remained popular to this day.
Although initially the number chosen was not based on scientific facts, it has proven to be quite relevant. According to a research published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 10,000 steps per day can be regarded as an appropriate and attainable goal for healthy adults. A different study found that walking 10,000 steps on a daily basis at a higher intensity can reduce the risk of dementia by 50%.
Moreover, the US national health agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recommends setting the same target. According to the same source, an American takes between 3,000 and 4,000 steps a day.
How Much Should You Walk a Day to Lose Weight
Across the years scientists have conducted various studies trying to figure out what’s the ideal step number to counteract the effects of weight gain.
A 2018 research examined the direct relationship between the number of daily steps and weight loss. 363 individuals took part in a 18-month weight loss program that combined dietary restrictions with physical activity. At the end of the intervention, scientists concluded that 10,000 steps a day, with at least 3,500 taken at a moderate-to-vigorous pace, can lead to substantial weight loss.
A recent paper, published in Nature Medicine, collected activity and health information from over 6,000 individuals, aged between 41 and 67, for a period of 4 years. After analyzing the data, researchers concluded that taking approximately 8,200 steps daily can lower the risk of obesity, sleep apnea, acid reflux and depression. The results also showed that overweight participants who walked 11,000 steps/day reduced by 50% the risk of becoming obese.
How Many Steps to Take to Live Longer
A recent meta-analysis of 15 studies, published in The Lancet health journal, examined the impact of daily step count on all-cause mortality. Scientists found that adults over 60 years should take between 6,000 and 8,000 steps each day to lower the risk of death. The data showed that younger adults, below 60 years, should walk between 8,000 and 10,000 steps/day to increase life expectancy.
Another study, published in the Jama Internal Medicine, analyzed the association between the number of steps and mortality rate among older females. 16741 women, with an average age of 72 years, participated in the program. According to the results, those who walked 4,400 steps each day manifested a 41% decrease in mortality rate in comparison to those who walked only 2,700 steps. The data showed that the more steps above the 4,400 figure were taken, the lower the mortality rate. The rates plateaued though at 7,500 steps.
New findings suggest that walking at least 6,000 steps/day can prevent cardiovascular events and hence help you live a longer life. Professors from the University of Massachusetts Amherst discovered that adults over 60 who take 6,000 – 9,000 steps daily have a 40 to 50% lower risk of suffering a stroke or heart attack in comparison to those who walk just 2,000 steps.
How Much Should Children Walk
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children and adolescents aged 6 to 17 should engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity each day. This should include aerobic exercise like walking and running, as well as muscle- and bone-strengthening activities. According to a study carried out by Canadian researchers, the equivalent daily step count to 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise ranges between 11,290 and 12,512.
As far as children between 3 and 5 years goes, there isn’t a specific step count. Health specialists simply recommend that small ones should play in a physically active manner each day.
Set a SMART Step Goal
Setting your own step goal is truly important. Without it, how will you know if your actions were successful or not? Creating a goal will give you a sense of direction, will provide the required motivation to stay active and help you gain that gratifying sense of fulfilment. If you want to succeed, make sure you set a SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time bound) goal.
10,000 steps may be right for some people, but not for everyone. You need to set an individual goal based on your necessities and fitness level. Also try to increase your physical activity gradually, not abruptly. If you’re currently taking 2,000 steps/day, add a few hundred steps each day, not a few thousand. A sudden and unrealistic transition will reduce your chances of reaching your target and make you feel frustrated and demotivated.
How to Monitor your Step Count
If you’d like to see how many steps you take each day, there’s no need to purchase a pedometer or other fitness tracking device. You can totally rely on your iPhone or Android phone to see your step count. All you have to do is download a free step tracker app like our own ActivityTracker and you’re all set.
Such an app will automatically record your movement and will keep you updated with the number of steps taken, the distance covered, the calories burned or the active time. You’ll be able to set a personal target and adjust it along the way, receive notifications regarding the progress made towards your goal and enjoy an in-depth analysis of your activity, with hourly, daily, weekly and monthly stats.