Walking 10,000 Steps per Day for Losing Weight

woman walking for fitness in the mountains

Verywell

You've probably heard that you should walk 10,000 steps per day for fitness and weight loss. Is this a fitness myth or is there any research that shows that it works?

The 10,000 steps-a-day concept was originally popularized in Japan and was not based on medical research. But now, researchers are investigating whether it's a useful goal.

So far, studies show that 10,000 steps per day isn't a magic number, but it is a good indicator of how much activity a person is achieving in a day. Walking more steps per day is also associated with being thinner. A study of steps per day and weight, body mass index (BMI), and other indicators showed that people who logged more pedometer steps per day weighed less, on average, and had a lower BMI.

How to Get Your 10,000 Steps

Taking 10,000 steps is equal to walking approximately five miles. Unless you have an active job, such as a waitress or nurse, it is difficult to log 10,000 steps with daily activity only. (An inactive person takes 3,000 steps or less in their daily activity of moving around the house.)

Most people achieve 10,000 steps by taking one or more sustained walks or runs, the equivalent of 30 to 60 minutes of walking. That equals the minimum daily exercise recommendation from most health authorities to reduce health risks.

If you'd like to take more daily steps for health and fitness, start by determining your baseline. Track your steps for a week or so using a simple pedometer, activity tracker, or smartphone app (many phones have a built-in step counter). You don't have to jump from 3,000 steps a day to 10,000 overnight.

Once you have a sense of your daily average, aim to add 2,000 to 2,500 steps a day to begin (about a mile). Walking a mile burns about 80 calories for a 150-pound person. As you get comfortable with this additional exercise, lengthen your walks, or take more short walks, so you get closer to 10,000 daily steps.

How to Burn Enough Calories for Weight Loss

Most weight loss programs recommend burning 200 to 300 calories per day in moderate to vigorous exercise. The number of calories you burn by walking depends primarily on how much you weigh and secondarily on your speed of motion.

Everyone burns calories just sitting and breathing, which you can estimate with this calories per day calculator. You burn more calories per minute when you get up and walk, and even more if you run.

Depending on your weight, walking 10,000 steps burns between 250 and 600 calories. You can use the pedometer steps to calories converter chart to estimate this for yourself. You will need to know your approximate steps per mile.

Even easier: Many pedometers estimate calorie burn based on your step count. Activity bands and advanced pedometers such as Fitbit also take into account how fast you are walking or running when estimating the calories you burn.

How to Add Steps and Intensity

Walking 10,000 steps per day, with 3,000 of those steps at a brisk walking to jogging pace, should help you burn enough calories to lose weight. If you are already logging 10,000 steps a day and not losing weight or maintaining your weight, then the key is to add another 2,000 more steps per day while eating the same amount or less.

Also try to set aside time for dedicated moderate- to vigorous-intensity exercise, whether that is walking, resistance training, or some other form of exercise that you enjoy. Many advanced pedometers, fitness bands, and smartwatches detect whether or not your movement is enough to be considered moderate or vigorous exercise.

The challenge is that logging more steps becomes time-consuming at this level. Burn more calories in the same time period by increasing your exercise intensity, taking more of your steps at a brisk walking or running pace or adding intervals such as hills or stairs.

For weight loss, also work on eliminating empty calories and getting good nutrition from everything you eat. A food and exercise diary can help you spot where to make improvements.

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