We all know walking is good for you - there’s no argument there, but what’s with the theory of 10000 steps? What makes this such a magical number?
Think about it - walking 10,000 steps is roughly 5 miles of walking. If you’re a sedentary person, that might seem like a lot, but it’s not. In fact, it’s only about 1 to 2 hours of walking everyday (depending on your speed) and that includes all your walking… to the bathroom, around the grocery store and even to the kitchen to grab another snack. The average person walks about 4000 steps a day without really thinking about it, so if you could be intentional, it wouldn’t take much more physical effort to do more. It’s just a matter of making the time.
Benefits from walking 10000 steps a day?
Well, it will help you live longer. According to research, your risk of mortality drops in relation to the intensity of your speed, especially for those who walked 24 minute miles (or less).
But will you lose weight? Sure will.
If you’re someone who is only getting in 4000 steps a day, by more than doubling that, you’ll be expending an additional 200 to 300 calories a day. But it’s more than that. You’ll also reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer obesity and even depression. Sold yet?
Don’t have time to walk 10000 steps a day?
Think about your average day for a moment. You have 24 hours, 8 of which are spent sleeping, so how exactly are you spending the rest of your 16 hours? Are all of them spent sitting? Do you really not have the time to move around for 2/24ths of your day? Because you don’t need special equipment, a gym membership or even a shower afterwards. It’s really such a simple task as long as you conscious of it.
I think, as long as you’ve got two legs that work, you probably have the ability to get this many steps in. If you’re too busy to do something other than sit for two hours a day, then you’ve got a serious time management problem.
How to count your steps (not in your head)
Okay, hopefully at this point I’ve convinced you that 10,000 steps is 100% possible and doable. But how do you know if you’ve done them?
My best recommendation is to get a Fitbit. I have this one and I love it. It tracks not only my steps, but also my sleep (which is also ideal to track). The model I have costs about $129, and it’s by far the best solution to tracking steps because you just never take it off. I have worked out, showered, pool lounged and slept with mine on everyday for the past 4 years and it’s still going strong.
There are fitness trackers to fit every budget. If you don’t like Fitbit there are a number of other devices to choose from that will do the job just as well. On the higher priced end, an Apple Watch will record steps, but there are also a ton of other lower cost options as well.
If all of these options are out of budget, a good o’l pedometer will also work. You can get one on Amazon for about $10 USD but it’s something you have to remember to wear, so less effective than bracelet style trackers that can be worn 24/7.
If you already have an iPhone, your device will track your steps while you’re holding it (try Apple’s Health app or Track my Walk). The kicker is that you may not always have it on your body when you’re heading to the restroom or running after your toddler, so it’s less accurate, but with some intentionality, you can work with it.
How many calories are burned in 10000 steps?
There's a bit of variability here based on fitness level and intensity (are you speed walking or strolling?). At the end of the day, the higher your intensity, the more calories you'll burn because your heart rate will be higher.
Now that said, you want to stay in your fat burning zone rather than just going for an all out run.
But with that said, you should expect to burn between 300 to 500 calories walking at a steady, moderate pace for 10,000 steps.
How to gradually increase your daily steps
Once you’ve started tracking your movement, you might be surprised to realize how few steps you actually get in a day. As I mentioned, most Americans only get 4,000 per day and if you work from home like I do, it can be far less!
The best way to do this (and stick with it) is to find ways of squeezing more steps in your day. Make a rule of parking as far as you can from buildings, or set a timer for 15 minutes and do a quick, brisk tidy of your space every day where you move around a lot. Vacuuming is great for this.
Dog walks are a great way of getting steps in, or just committing to a short walk around the block every morning just to get some fresh air and a few more steps. Being outside in the sun and fresh air first thing in the morning has a TON of health benefits, btw.
Here’s how I reach my 10000 steps per day goal
I workout in the morning for 30 minutes - yes, your workout counts toward your total steps, so if you’re a runner, you might meet your goal with your workout alone. If like me, you workout at home and it’s not typically running, then that might give you 2000 or 3000 steps.
My lifestyle is pretty confined since I work from home with a sedentary job. That means I have to intentionally schedule walks into my day. It typically takes me an hour of walking to make up the rest of my steps, but hands down, it’s my favorite part of the day. I get fresh air and downtime to think or I might listen to a podcast or two. If you work in an office, you probably consume more steps just getting ready for work, walking around a building and going out for lunch, so you might not need a full hour to make up your extra steps.
In addition to my own walks, I often take my dogs for a walk, but they’re so old and cranky that it ends up being more of a slow shuffle, but it still counts.
If by dinner time, I don’t have all my steps in, you can be sure I’ll be doing a few lunges, traveling squats and breakout in silly dance moves as I’m making dinner. I turn on music and run around the kitchen and up and down the stairs. You’d be surprised how many steps household chores can take up!
Other ideas for getting in 10,000 steps a day
- If you don't have a dog, borrow someone else or make a few bucks walking dogs for profit. Bonus points if you volunteer at a dog shelter!
- Take your kids to the park
- Go for a hike in nature - my personal fav when I have time.
- Go for a power walk around the mall
- Walk on an indoor treadmill
- Clean the house
- Mow the lawn
- Garden work
- Dance classes on Youtube
- Fitness Classes at home or at a club
- Take a walking specific fitness class - this looks super interesting
- Take up a new sport - playing tennis for 30 minutes will give you 3600 steps!
- Dance in your living room like no one’s watching
What does 20,000 steps a day look like?
Bottom line, walking 10,000 steps a day is totally doable for an able-bodied person. If 10K seems like a stretch at first, set your sights at a reasonable amount, but work up to 10K over time.
Want to do more? Even better! Walking is something that doesn’t lead to joint or muscle overuse (unless you really overdo it). If you’re already doing 10K and you have time and capacity for more, aim for 15,000 to 20,000 a day! I try to do that on the weekends when I’m not working.
How many steps a day do you think you’re walking right now?
Caren is a certified yoga teacher, fitness instructor and author of The Fit Habit. Here she shares simple, low carb recipes, quick home workout ideas and practical ways to foster mind + body wellness.