We now have a research based answer to that question. But, it comes with a twist.
First, here how many steps you don’t need to walk every day to burn fat. 10,000. While that number has long been out there as a goal to aim for daily, it’s not what you need if you want to burn fat. The 10,000 step goal actually started as a Japanese marketing campaign for a pedometer more than 50 years ago. It’s a big round number and not easily achieved, so it works well as a goal. To be clear, I think 10,000 steps is worth aiming for, but it’s not the number research is now pointing to if your bigger goal is burning fat.
I suspect the number one reason most people exercise if for weight management. I’ve long written my biggest fitness “why” is to age well. The CDC has long advocated the long-term health benefits of at least 150 minutes per week of moderate activity. If you’re reaching that level consistently, you are lowering your risk of heart disease, some cancers, diabetes, cognitive decline, and depression. Sign me up!
I’m not as concerned with extending my years as much as I am about making my aging years the highest quality possible. But, if I’m being really honest, weight management is a part of that. And, not just from a health standpoint. If you’ve seen pictures of me, I’m slender. I always have been. I’ve never been on a diet or weight loss plan. That doesn’t mean I’ve never thought about my weight…or that I don’t think about it now. I do.
When I was in my 40’s I started a slow weight gain that all went to my mid-section. This is where the Paul men carry their extra weight. I could see it in my dad and grandfather. It was not a look I aspired to so I started running. Thankfully, I began my fitness journey soon after the extra pounds started hanging around so it didn’t take long for them to fall away. Five years of running almost every day was followed by what I do now…lots of walking, cycling, and some strength training.
I walk around 20,000 steps a day. Some days more…some days less, but 20,000 tends to be where I land. And, the thing is…I’m not really aiming for that as much as it’s just a part of my lifestyle now.
Don’t panic…the research doesn’t say you need to walk 20,000 steps a day to burn fat. It’s far less. But, there is something I do that the research indicates is important. In fact, I’m convinced it’s this second thing that helps me keep the weight off and not the 20k steps.
The new research says we need 8,500 steps a day. For the average person, that translates to about 4 1/4 miles. If you can walk 1,000 steps in ten minutes those 8,500 steps will require almost an hour and a half of walking every day. That’s a lot of walking. Who has 90 minutes every day to go for a walk?
But, here’s the other part of this research. To maximize fat loss those 8,500 steps should be scattered throughout the day. In other words, if you can take 9 different ten-minute walks that’s far better for burning fat If nine short walks every day sounds like a lot, how about six 15-minute walks?
This research confirms my super-power as, not how many steps I get every day, but how often I’m moving throughout the day. I don’t sit well. I’m constantly moving. I feel better when I’m moving. It didn’t start this way, but as my fitness habit transformed into fitness momentum, my fitness capacity allowed me to move even more. And, according to this research, it’s this constant activity, along with (at least) 8,500 steps that allows me to keep my weight under control.
But, this isn’t about me. It’s about you. Obviously, the research can’t guarantee you’ll have the exact same results, but it does give you a goal to aim for. Find a way to get at least 8,500 steps every day…and not all at once…and you’re giving your body a better opportunity to burn fat.
If you’re currently walking fewer than 8,5oo steps a day, it’s important not to add them all at once. It’s also important to create a daily habit of walking so you can gradually increase to 8,500. I recommend you use The 30 Day Fitness Challenge to help you get started in a way that sticks.
It’s also important to have a Fitbit. This will allow you to not only track how many steps you’re getting each day, but also make you aware throughout the day of how much or how little you’re moving. You can even set an hourly reminder on your Fitbit to get up and walk. If you don’t have a Fitbit I recommend the Fitbit Inspire 2! The Inspire 2 has double the battery life, and also tracks your heart rate and sleep so you get an even wider picture of your fitness progress. This is also the Fitbit I use to track my steps every day! If you use this link to buy a Fitbit, this blog will receive a small commission.
I also recommend subscribing to this blog for weekly encouragement and motivation. Establishing and maintaining a fitness habit is not easy. Receiving a regular article to help you keep moving forward might be the difference maker you need. To subscribe simply click FOLLOW (to the right on your desktop…at the bottom on your phone) and you’ll get a link sent to you as soon as each new article is posted.