Are you considering making 10,000 steps a day your New Year’s goal? If so, here are the answers to your many questions.
(Jumpstart your fitness using the Walking is Fitness podcast HERE for a daily ten-minute walk. It’s like having a walking companion as you create a daily fitness habit. And, to make it fun, I record the podcast as I’m taking my walk)
HOW FAR IS 10,000 STEPS?
The average person takes about 2,000 steps to walk a mile. That means walking 10,000 steps is about five miles.
Obviously, the length of your stride can change that. For example, it takes fewer than 2,000 steps to run a mile because you’re covering more ground with each stride and you simply don’t need as many steps.
My wife, Ava, is noticeably shorter than me and when we walk together our step totals never match. That’s because her stride is shorter and she needs more steps to match my pace OR I need fewer steps to match her pace.
But, for most of us 10,000 steps means we walked pretty close to five miles.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO WALK 10,000 STEPS?
On average, most of us can comfortably walk 1,000 steps in ten minutes. This is probably faster than you would walk through the grocery store, but slower than if you were intentionally walking fast because you’re late.
At this pace, 3 mph, it will take you one hour and 40 minutes to walk 10,000 steps. But, of course most of us aren’t walking the entire 10,000 steps at one time. Typically, it’s a combination of our normal moving throughout the day with an added intentional walk to pick up the remainder.
The average person get’s about 4,000 steps a day which means you would need an extra hour of walking to reach 10,000.
HOW MANY CALORIES DOES WALKING 10,000 STEPS BURN?
There are lots of variables at play here. How much do you weigh, how fit are you, and how fast are you walking?
Let’s look at two average people each walking at 3.5 mph. At this speed you’re walking with a purpose. It’s faster than a casual stroll. You’re getting about 133 steps a minute at 3.5 mph.
According to research from Harvard Health, if you weigh 155 pounds walking 10,000 steps would burn 447 calories. If you weigh 185 pounds walking 10,000 steps would burn 555 calories.
IS WALKING 10,000 STEPS A DAY GOOD EXERCISE?
The quick answer is YES! Walking is great exercise. It’s flexible enough to do almost anywhere and at anytime. Walking is sustainable so it’s exercise you can do for many decades
The Centers for Disease Control recommends we get between 150 to 300 minutes of moderate exercise every week. The CDC defines walking 3 mph as a moderate level activity. That means if you’re walking 10,000 steps every day at 3 mph you are getting 700 minutes a week of moderate intensity exercise which is more than TWICE the CDC recommendation.
WHAT DOES RESEARCH SAY ABOUT WALKING 10,000 STEPS A DAY?
Clearly, you don’t need to walk 10,000 steps every day to reach the upper limit of the CDC’s exercise guidelines. In fact, there’s been more than few headlines lately taking a critical look at the 10,000 steps a day goal. And, almost all of them draw the same conclusion. You can get healthy walking less than 10,000 steps a day.
But, there are added benefits to walking 10,000 steps a day. These articles (and flashy headlines) are coming from the perspective of WHAT’S THE MINIMUM number of steps we need to get healthy. And, 10,000 steps puts you well above the minimum. That doesn’t mean there is no benefit to these extra steps.
In addition to what walking 10,000 steps a day give you there’s also what it keeps you from doing. The more you walk the less you sit. There’s growing research indicating that sitting too much or for too long is dangerous for your health. Some have even called sitting the new smoking.
If you are walking 10,000 steps a day it means you are intentionally moving more which results in sitting less. This is a real benefit too.
WHO CAME UP WITH 10,000 STEPS A DAY AS A GOAL?
And, this might be the real reason for these recent headlines critical of walking 10,000 steps a day. It’s not a magic number or special formula created through research and science.
Walking 10,000 steps a day as a popular goal has it’s roots in marketing campaign from 1965. A Japanese company started selling a pedometer and called it Manpo-kei which means 10,000-step meter in English.
It was a pretty successful campaign and the 10,000 steps a day goal stuck. Plus, we like big round numbers which helped this goal take roots and keep growing.
IS 10,000 STEPS A DAY A GOOD GOAL?
I think the better question is, “What do you want to accomplish?” If up to 700 minutes a week of moderate level activity, burning an extra 447 to 555 calories a day, and sitting less than you do right now, it’s a great goal.
If, instead, your bigger goal is to establish a fitness habit and begin to reach the CDC minimum activity guidelines than you don’t need to walk 10,000 steps a day. In fact, I would strongly recommend you don’t!
That said, walking 10,000 steps a day could become a long-term goal after you’ve established your habit and build some fitness momentum.
IS THERE A DOWNSIDE TO WALKING 10,000 STEPS A DAY?
For many, walking 10,000 steps a day is just too much. To go from the average of 4,000 to 10,000 steps a day you need to add an hour of walking. That requires a certain fitness level and the ability to find the time. Both are difficult.
What typically happens is this. Someone decides to begin a new fitness journey. They buy a Fitbit and decide to make 10,000 steps their daily goal because “That’s what you’re supposed to do.” They start walking with enthusiasm. That emotion may last a week or so and then reality sets in.
They’re tired and finding the extra hour for walking is not nearly as appealing as doing something else that’s more fun. Plus, there are no immediately noticeable results from all that walking. Pretty soon the 10,000 steps goal is discarded.
The downside to walking 10,000 steps a day is that it’s a terrible starting goal. And, you may not even need to walk that much if your bigger health and fitness goals are simply to get more active than you are now. That’s a fine goal and it does not require 10,000 steps a day.
But, if you want to do more than simply get more active then 10,000 steps a day is fine long-term goal. Starting small to build a fitness habit should always be the very first exercise goal. Create a habit that eventually builds momentum. That momentum will propel you towards 10,000 steps in a way that is sustainable and even fun!
The new Walking is Fitness podcast can also help you create and maintain a fitness habit as you join Dave for a daily ten-minute walk together. Check it out HERE.
The 30 Day New Year Fitness Challenge is a fun and easy way to begin building a habit. This free guide will show you the way.
If you don’t have a Fitbit I recommend the Inspire 3. It not only tracks your steps, also tracks your heart rate and sleep so you get an even wider picture of your fitness progress.
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