10,000 Steps: How Many Steps a Day Should You Take?

Three women check steps progress on fitness tracker and phone

Do you have a daily step goal or regularly track how many steps you take per day? UnityPoint Health Physical Therapist, Jeremy Fehrmann, PT, DPT, talks about the popular 10,000 steps per day trend, including how health benefits increase with every step you take. 

Recommended Steps per Day

Fehrmann partially credits the 10,000 steps benchmark to activity and fitness trackers. He says research suggests people who achieve 10,000 steps per day are likely to reach the recommended 30 minutes of exercise per day goal set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Without extra activity, people’s average steps per day equals roughly 4,000 to 7,000 steps,” Fehrmann says. “Three thousand to 6,000 additional steps every day (or 1.5 to 3 miles) should come from another source of activity.”

Calories Burned While Walking

Figuring out how many calories you burn while walking is more difficult than you might think. In general, it’s usually between 2 and 8 calories per minute depending on your weight and walking intensity. 

There’s a mathematical equation that uses metabolic equivalents (METs), the amount of oxygen your body uses during different activities. Here’s the equation: (METs x 3.5 x body weight in kg)/200 = calories burned per minute.

Here are some estimates for a 175-pound person: 

  • Slow walking (2.5 METs) = 3.46 calories per minute
  • Moderate walking (3 METs) = 4.15 calories per minute
  • Pushing stroller (4 METs) = 5.53 calories per minute
  • Brisk walking (4.3 METs) = 5.94 calories per minute
  • Walking with an uphill grade (5.3 METs) = 7.33 calories per minute

Here's how the above equation for someone pushing a stroller (and weighing about 175 pounds or 79 kg) was calculated: (4 METs x 3.5 x 79 kg)/200= 5.53 calories burned per minute.

“These standardized estimations for activities are how fitness trackers or calculators give you an idea of how many calories are burned during a particular activity. These estimations are based on body weight, so when using any sort of technology, make sure you're as accurate with your weight as possible,” Fehrmann says.

How Many Steps a Day to Lose Weight

While 10,000 steps may be a good goal to help lose weight, Fehrmann says weight loss based on step count is hard to predict. Overall, studies show you must burn 3,500 calories to lose a pound.

“If caloric intake (eating) is the same as caloric output (exercise, plus normal calories burned etc.), weight will remain the same. Even how many calories burned during an activity can vary based on a person’s intensity and current weight. I wish I could say a certain number of steps would guarantee weight loss, and while taking 10,000 steps a day may help, there are many contributing factors,” Fehrmann says.

He says instead of prioritizing steps, focus more on minutes of added physical activity.

“For adults 18-64 and older, I suggest 10 minutes of activity three to four times per day, outside of normal daily activities. From there, the goal would be to have people increase intensity within those 10 minute periods. Ideally, patients would follow CDC recommendations, achieving 150 minutes of moderate intensity activities. Achieving 150 minutes of vigorous activity per week, or 300 minutes of moderately intense exercise in a week, has a greater effect on overall health,” Fehrmann says.

In most cases, people don’t need to worry if they’re taking too many steps. Although, certain age groups do have slightly different step count goals and activity needs. For example, children need more activity than adults, getting 60 minutes daily, with at least 30 minutes of intense activity, three times per week. Additionally, pregnant women should work toward 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, after talking to their provider.

Health Benefits of Daily Walking

The health benefits of daily walking could include:

How to Burn More Calories While Working from Home

Anyone working from home needs to prioritize getting in more steps per day. Less time in the office often means a day without steps to a co-worker’s desk and less walking to use office equipment, like the printer. 

Fehrmann says to try these three options to burn more calories while working from home:

  • Set a fitness timer. Use the timer to get up once per hour to move around, not just use the restroom.
  • Stand while working. Sitting while working for 40 minutes burns about 80 calories. Standing while working for 40 minutes will burn about 160 calories.
  • Sit on an exercise ball. Sitting on a ball requires more work and, therefore, increases calorie burn. It also promotes body stability by activating core muscles.

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