Is 10,000 Steps per Day the Right Number? - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on July 27, 2016

Is 10,000 Steps per Day the Right Number?

For most people, walking 10,000 steps helps them to achieve the recommended 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day.

For most people, walking 10,000 steps helps
them to achieve the recommended 30 minutes
of moderate exercise each day.

It seems like everywhere we turn, people are checking fitness trackers and talking with friends and colleagues about how many steps they get on a daily basis. If you have been touched by this obsession, you know that the magic goal for daily steps is 10,000. It seems that many obsessed steppers believe that, as long as they get their 10,000 steps a day, everything will be fine.

But hold on a second: Where did the number 10,000 come from? Is it scientifically and medically correct to make that the goal? What should your personal goal be?

In actuality, Japanese researchers, led by Dr. Yoshiro Hatano, came up with the 10,000 steps goal more than 50 years ago as a marketing strategy to sell pedometers. The research team concluded that if people reached 10,000 steps each day they would lose weight and become healthier. The pedometers were even sold under the name "manpo-kei," which translates to "10,000 steps meter.”

Ten thousand steps equates to roughly five miles per day. For most people, walking that much helps them to achieve the recommended 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day. However, 10,000 steps is not automatically the right goal for everyone.

If you’re just getting into fitness…

When you’re first trying to get a fitness regimen going, 10,000 steps can seem intimidating. You can go for a long walk, check your tracker and find out that you only got 2,000 steps. It’s important to keep at it.  

The best way to start is to wear your fitness tracker for a week or two and see how many steps you get in your normal routine. After this initial period, try to add on 500 steps per day for a week. After you’ve set a new level for a full week, add another 500 steps per day. Before you know it, you’ll be knocking on the door of 10,000 steps.

Additionally, one great aspect of fitness trackers is that they’re an easy way to gauge your progress.

If you’re trying to lose weight…

Generally speaking, you need to change your diet and reduce calories in order to lose weight.

However, exercise can be an important part of the equation, and walking is a good first step. Ten thousand steps a day can burn up to 3,500 calories a week; one pound of body fat equals 3500 calories, so you could lose a pound a week if you commit to getting in your steps every day. Importantly, you’ll need to get 10,000 more steps than you typically get in order to lose that pound, unless you also change your diet.

For most people, 10,000 steps a day is probably what you’d call a “stretch goal” – it’s doable, but it’s going to take some effort. If it’s beyond your ability today, the good news is that fitness trackers make it easy to chart your progress and move towards a goal. Even if you never get to 10,000 steps a day, if you’re paying attention to your physical activity and working to get more exercise, it’s a good thing.

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