How Many Steps You Need Each Day, and How To Get Them
Walking is a perfect everyday exercise: It’s (fairly) gentle on the joints, easy to do, offers plenty of health benefits, and it doesn’t cost a dime. So, how many steps a day should you walk? Here are some things to consider to help you get the most from your wearable.
How Many Steps Should I Take Per Day?
The short answer: As many steps as your body can safely handle right now.
Sure, you may have seen the “10,000 steps per day” — equal to roughly 4 or 5 miles, depending on your stride length — figure thrown around a lot. “That’s a nice round number that’s easy to remember, but it’s not necessarily appropriate for everyone,” says Openfit Live trainer Mary Beth Rockwell.
Consider this: The average American takes roughly 3,000 to 4,000 steps, or 1.5 to 2 miles per day. “If you’re on the sedentary end of the spectrum, 10,000 steps may be unrealistic for you right out of the gate,” Rockwell says.
Instead, aim to increase your step count consistently and gradually. For example, if you start tracking your steps and find you’re currently getting 3,000 to 4,000 steps per day, work on building up to 5,000. Keep working on increasing your step count until you reach 10,000 per day. If you want to add more beyond that, go for it!
How Many Steps Should I Take for Weight Loss?
As long as it’s done in conjunction with healthy nutrition and lifestyle habits that keep you burning more calories per day than you consume through your diet, walking can help you shed unwanted pounds.
When it comes to weight loss, tacking an extra 500 to 1,000 steps onto your usual tally can help, but upping your intensity is the best way to burn more calories from walking.
So, if you want to squeeze more weight loss benefits out of your daily steps, pick up the pace: “Imagine that you’re running late for an appointment and you’ll be charged 10 dollars for every minute that you’re tardy,” Rockwell says. You can even add brief jogging intervals, or walk hills or stairs if you’re up for the challenge.
How Many Steps Should I Take to Improve Overall Fitness?
If you’re just hoping to stay fit, look to the United States federal guidelines for physical activity. According to these recommendations, all adults should perform at least 2 ½ to 5 hours of moderate-intensity cardio exercise per week for overall health. “Power walking is a great option,” Rockwell says.
To meet the recommendations, plan on walking 30 to 60 minutes five times per week. That should net you a weekly total of 10 to 20 miles, or 20,000 steps (on the low end) to 50,000 steps (on the high end).
How Many Steps Should I Take to Maintain My Weight?
Maintaining your weight is like trying to balance a seesaw. “You need to take in the same number of calories that you expend through exercise,” Rockwell says.
To ensure you’re doing that:
- It’s a good idea to keep tabs on your daily food intake and step count.
- Then, try to weigh yourself once a week to make sure you’re still on track.
- If your weight starts creeping up, increase your daily step count as much as you can handle, and pay closer attention to your diet.
How to Increase Your Steps During the Day
Now that you know the many benefits of increasing your daily step count, how do you do it? Rockwell has a handful of tips to help you improve your daily tally.
- If you drive, park as far away from your destination as possible.
- If you’re running errands, walk a brisk loop around the mall or store before doing any shopping.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator whenever possible.
- Walk during phone calls.
- Walk around the airport while waiting for a flight.
- Take your dog or kids for a lap around the block.
- Sign up for an Openfit Live running or walking class.