Do you really need to walk 10,000 steps a day?
Research shows that incorporating walking into your movement routine can reduce your risk of heart disease and even improve your mental health.
For many, walking is a great low impact workout — and it also happens to be totally free. Yet exactly how much walking one should do daily is up for debate.
One number that likely comes to mind is 10,000 steps a day — a goal that many people tracking their step count strive to hit daily. It's the number associated with many fitness challenges and one that many fitness jocks swear by for health and weight loss. But is this number the one we should all strive for on the daily?
Dr. Alexis Coslick, a sports medicine and rehabilitation specialist for Johns Hopkins Medicine, points out that 10,000 steps a day was developed for a marketing campaign for a Japanese pedometer, and isn’t an official health recommendation.
“Studies have looked at the number of steps related to health benefits and weight loss, but the majority of studies also restricted caloric intake, rather than evaluating the number of steps in isolation,” she points out.
Dr. Coslick says that officially, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends “150 minutes per week of moderate intensity aerobic exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic exercise and two days of muscle strengthening.” Attempting to hit one’s step count could, in theory, go toward those exercise goals.
Yet the real reason why step count is a significant metric is because it indicates how often you are moving throughout the day.
Personal trainer Tony Coffey, owner of Bloom Training, explains that one’s daily step count is “closely correlated to increased cognition, mood, glycemic (blood sugar) control, and decreased risk of all-cause mortality, blood pressure and postprandial triglycerides.”
Increasing one’s step count — aka, increasing how often you move throughout the day — may even help you live longer, according to research.
“A recent meta-analysis looking over 175,000 total person-years showed that for every 1,000 steps more you take per day, your risk of death from all causes drops 12%,” Coffey tells Yahoo Life.
“The data looked at individuals who averaged less than 3,000 steps per day all the way up to 16,000 steps per day. Walking less that 3,000 steps per day was associated with a 300% increased risk of all-cause mortality compared to the 16,000 step group. To put that into perspective, all-cause mortality rates are only 70 to 80% higher in smokers than non-smokers. How much you move during the day is one of the biggest predictors of your overall lifespan.”
Yet one doesn’t need to worry too much about 10,000 steps, specifically. Michele Olson, a clinical professor of sport science at Huntingdon College in Alabama, notes that according to research, 7,000 steps a day may be the sweet spot.
"In terms of making a significant impact, one should work to accumulate 7,000 steps per day. Compared to doing just 4,000 steps, taking 7,000 steps substantially reduces health risks," she shares. "You do gain additional health benefits from taking more steps toward 10,0000 per day, but the degree of health gains levels."