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How Many Steps Should I Walk A Day?

Written by 
Lacey Ramburger

Article at a glance

  • The Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend older adults engage in 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week—walking can contribute to this goal.

  • On average, many people strive to walk 10,000 steps per day as this count is linked to health benefits.

  • Older adults may only need to walk 6,000–8,000 steps per day to gain similar benefits.

older couple walking on a trail in forest

How Many Steps Should I Walk In a Day?

The CDC recommends approximately 150 minutes of activity a week for the average person to be considered active. Walking serves as a form of moderate-intensity exercise that can bring you closer to that goal. In terms of the exact number of steps you should take, certain factors can affect what the ideal steps per day goal should be per person, such as age, disability, or targeted fitness goals.

Each person may have a different amount of steps per day they should take, but if you’re searching for a starting point, 10,000 steps a day can be a great initial goal to work towards.

older couple hiking in green grass outside

Why 10,000 Steps Per Day?

While 10,000 steps may seem like an arbitrary number, research has shown positive correlations between 10,000 steps on average and improved health benefits, such as lower mortality rates, better cardiovascular health, and reduced possibility of cancer and dementia.

The majority of studies surrounding the ideal amount of steps to take per day have focused on older adults, though these benefits may also apply to other age groups as well.

older couple walking on outdoor path with cane

How Many Steps To Ensure an Active, Healthy Lifestyle?

For a person to have an active, healthy lifestyle, multiple factors must be taken into account, such as diet, health conditions, and physical activity. How much physical activity a person needs can vary, but the CDC recommends an average of 150 minutes of physical activity per week. Walking and increasing your step count can contribute towards that 150 minutes.

With this in mind, the goal of 10,000 steps a day, paired with a healthy diet and proper sleep, is considered the average goal to strive for to ensure an active lifestyle. 12,000 steps per day or more are considered highly active,” according to some research.

In general, the categories associated with number of steps can be broken down as followed:

  • Basal: below 2,500 steps

  • Limited: 2,500–4,999

  • Low: 5,000–7,499 steps

  • Somewhat active: 7,500–9,999 steps

  • Active: 10,000–12,499 step

  • Highly active: over 12,500 steps

scale of how many steps to walk per day

How Many Steps Should I Walk to Lose Weight?

If a person’s goal is weight loss, the number of steps per day may vary. The important factor to consider is that to lose weight, you must burn more calories than you take in, meaning that there isn’t a perfect one size fits all” number of steps to achieve weight loss. Other factors such as your diet, sleep, and hydration will also have a significant impact on your weight loss.

However, striving for 10,000 steps a day or more can serve as a great base in order to achieve higher levels of physical activity. If 10,000 steps aren’t achievable for you, take as many steps as you can, as some activity is better than none.

The number of calories a person will burn walking 10,000 steps will vary depending on their weight, but it’s estimated that an average of 250–600 calories can be burned by walking this amount per day. Tracking your calorie intake can be beneficial in determining the appropriate amount of steps needed to lose weight.

What Is Considered Too Few Steps?

While 10,000 steps may be the most well-known goal, this amount may not be feasible for everyone, especially for older adults or those with mobility issues. Research shows that less than 5,000 steps are considered to be a sedentary lifestyle, so striving for at least 5,000 steps per day is ideal.

It’s important to note that any amount of steps is better than none, so even if your step count is less than 5,000 steps per day, it’s still worth the effort.

How Many Steps Should I Walk According To My Age?

There aren’t too many studies that fixate on how many steps younger adults should take—most of the research is geared toward seniors. However, all age groups can still receive benefits from walking.

Ages 20–65

On average, the CDC recommends 150 minutes of physical activity per day for healthy adults. In terms of walking and step count, shooting for an average of 10,000–12,000 steps per day is thought to produce adequate health improvements.

Ages 65+

For those over the age of 65, the number of steps may be less. Some studies have shown that older adults over the age of 65 may benefit just as well from taking 6,000–8,000 steps while still seeing the same benefits to their overall health.

A patient sits on an exam table and smiles while looking at a doctor.

Health Benefits Of Walking

In terms of benefits to your health, walking can be a great option to consider adding to your exercise or daily routine. Older adults may experience significant other health benefits linked to walking, including lower mortality rates, improved immune health, and more.

Lower Mortality Rates 

Studies have shown that older adults that walk approximately 6,000–10,000 steps a day have a lower risk of premature death as opposed to those who have consistently sedentary lifestyles. More specifically, between 6,000–8,000 steps per day for older adults seems to reap these benefits

Improved Cardiovascular Health 

Walking consistently is thought to reduce the risk of heart disease if a person walks 30 minutes per day, five days per week. It’s also worth noting that this same amount of walking per week can decrease the risk of stroke and Type 2 diabetes as well. 

Reduced Risk of Certain Cancers 

Some research indicates that a person’s risk of developing breast cancer can result from walking consistently. Other cancers that a person has a lower risk of experiencing if they are consistently physically active include:

  • Bladder cancer

  • Colon cancer

  • Kidney cancer

  • Stomach cancer

  • Endometrial cancer

  • Esophageal cancer

Eases Joint Pain 

One of the causes of joint pain is due to joints not being exercised or moved as much—walking an average of 5 miles may have the potential to prevent arthritis.

Weight Loss

Walking can help a person burn calories, potentially aiding in weight loss over time. Walking approximately 10,000 steps can potentially burn between 250–600 calories, depending on a person’s weight. 

Improve Physical & Mental Health 

Walking can not only benefit health physically by being active but mentally is thought to improve mood and cognitive function. You may become more mentally aware, have a boost in energy, and have a more positive mood by taking the time to walk each day.

Improve Immune Function

Walking may potentially prevent the possibility of flu or a cold if done on a daily basis, most notably due to bacteria being flushed out of the lungs. Additionally, exercise can help reduce stress, which can contribute to a lower likelihood of getting sick.

older woman sleeping peacefully in white sheets

Tips To Increase Step Count

If your walking habits aren’t the most active or consistent, you may want to find ways to increase your step count. Some possible options may include:

  • Parking farther away during errands

  • Walking to nearby places rather than driving or taking public transit

  • Taking longer walks when possible

  • Taking the stairs over an elevator

  • Dancing

  • Getting a treadmill to walk inside

  • Walk during commercial breaks or on breaks at work

Ways to Boost Step Count Motivation

Additionally, you may find it’s easier to increase your step count if you:

  • Purchase a step counter to track your steps

  • Get a walking buddy to help keep you accountable

  • Set specific goals for your walking pace and habits

  • Set reasonable target goals for walking

  • Walking along a scenic route to encourage a longer walking distance

  • Listening to music/​podcasts as you walk

FAQ

Is it better to take more than 10,000 steps a day?

10,000 steps a day is a standard goal people may aspire to, but it's not necessarily the limit. It's more important to keep in mind that for senior adults, walking between 6,000-10,000 steps may provide similar health benefits overall.

How many steps per day is considered active?

Currently, more than 10,000 steps are considered active, and 12,500 is considered highly active.

How many minutes is a 1-mile walk?

This will vary slightly depending on step size and walking pace, but on average, it will take a person about 20 minutes to complete a 1-mile walk.

Is 5,000 steps a day better than nothing?

Yes, 5,000 steps a day is better than not taking steps in a day.

Do steps around the house count?

Yes, taking steps around your home contributes to your steps per day.

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