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Many people aim to take 10,000 steps each day, or about five miles. This can help reduce your risk of certain medical conditions like high blood pressure and heart disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend doing at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, but many people also aim to walk 10,000 steps a day.

However, 10,000 steps may not suit everyone, all the time. You may need to work up to it, and you’ll also need to work out how many steps you need to meet your individual goals. Finding time to walk 10,000 steps can also be challenging.

And, according to some experts, you may not need to walk quite that far to get the benefits.

Many step counters come with 10,000 steps preprogrammed as a goal to aim for. But why 10,000 steps?

The idea of 10,000 steps began with a 1965 Japanese marketing campaign aimed at selling pedometers.

In 2001, a project called Every Step Counts aimed to get people and communities more active. It’s a nice round number, a reasonable target, and it’s encouraged many to start walking.

Some research into walking 10,000 steps a day has linked it with health benefits.

In a 2007 study, for instance, 14 individuals with low activity levels began walking 10,000 steps per day for 15 weeks.

At the end of the study, they saw improvements in:

Walking 10,000 steps per day is unlikely to harm your health, but some experts have questioned if this number is necessary.

A 2022 review concluded that the benefits probably level off before 10,000 steps per day, and that lower targets may be reasonable.

For those aged up to 60 years, walking 8,000–10,000 steps a day may be enough to maintain health. After the age of 60, 6,000–8,000 appears to be sufficient.

A 2011 study noted that healthy adults tend to do 4,000–18,000 steps per day, and that 10,000 steps per day is a reasonable target for healthy adults.

The following categories may help you assess your activity levels:

Activity levelSteps per day
BasalBelow 2,500
Somewhat active7,500–9,999
Very activeover 12,500

However, the number of steps you aim for will depend on your goals. For people who are just getting started, any consistent increase will be better than no increase.

While the exact number of steps will depend on age, gender, diet, and other factors, some research has indicated that even a small increase in step count can lead to some modest weight loss.

One study found that getting at least 15,000 steps per day is correlated with a lower risk of metabolic syndrome, which often includes obesity.

However, getting to 10,000 steps may also help you lose weight and improve your mood.

Get some weight loss tips here.

To improve your fitness level, you need to know how many steps you’re currently averaging in a day. A pedometer or smartphone app can help you with this.

Certified personal trainer Esther Avant suggests setting a goal 500–1,000 steps higher than your current average and working on maintaining this slight increase for 1–2 weeks or until you feel comfortable with the increase.

Next, increase again and repeat the process until you’re meeting your target steps, which may be 10,000 steps per day.

If your current step count is under 5,000, you may want to start by adding 250–500 steps per day. The first week, focus on increasing your step count by 250 every 1–2 days.

Next, start adding 500 steps per day until you consistently reach your target. You can then stay at this level or keep adding steps each day to move your step count up into a more active category.

To challenge yourself, try adding intervals to your walking.

Personal trainer Manning Sumner suggests either running 30 seconds followed by 2 minutes of
walking or running 15 seconds followed by one minute of walking.

If you’re happy with the number of steps you take in a day, maintaining your current fitness level might be your primary goal.

But, you need to make sure you’re meeting the minimum aerobic exercise recommendations, as set by the CDC. Adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intense aerobic activity each week or 30 minutes of activity like walking, 5 days a week.

Incidentally, the steps you do during other exercise count toward your daily steps.

Learn more

See our dedicated fitness hub.

Depending on your lifestyle and available time, various tips can help you boost your step count:

  1. Track your steps: Use an app or step counter to see how you’re progressing.
  2. Build in a daily walk. Walking for 30-60 minutes each day can significantly boost your step count.
  3. Take mini-walks. Take three short, 10-minute walks a day to fit in a total of 30 minutes.
  4. Talk in person. Rather than messaging coworkers, get up and walk to their desks.
  5. Go the wrong way. Use a bathroom further away from your office to up your count.
  6. Go the extra mile. Choose to walk a bit further, for example, by leaving your car in the furthest parking spot.
  7. Skip the magazines. Walk while waiting for appointments instead of sitting in the waiting room.
  8. Walk and talk. Take your phone calls in places where you can walk around while talking. Engage colleagues in walking meetings, too.
  9. Walk during kids’ activities. If you have to wait while kids do an activity, walk around instead of sitting and watching or waiting.
  10. Join or organize a walking challenge: Friendly competitiveness can increase motivation.
  11. Get others involved: Arrange a regular time to walk each week with friends, family, or neighbors.
  12. Walk a dog: If you don’t have one, a neighbor might appreciate the offer.
  13. Walk for charity: Raise money for a good cause by pledging to walk a number of steps per day for one month.

If you’re struggling with the motivation to stay on track, Sumner suggests replacing motivation with discipline.

“Motivation will always come and go, but if you commit and stick to a routine no matter how you ‘feel’ then, where motivation might be lacking, your discipline will keep you on the right track,” he explains.

“Often what happens is that you may start out not feeling motivated, but if you do it anyway, just get up and go, once you start moving and the blood starts flowing. motivation starts to kick in again,” he adds.

Making walking fun through challenges, competitions, and walking with friends can also be strong motivating factors.

Get some tips on motivation to exercise.

How many steps a day is considered active?

One definition says “active” starts at 10,000 steps, but it will depend on the individual, their age, fitness goals, health, and so on.

Does walking 10,000 steps help you lose weight?

Combined with healthy dietary choices and care with portion size, walking 10,000 steps per day will help you burn calories, which can result in weight loss.

Is it realistic to walk 10,000 steps a day?

Not everyone has the time or space to walk 10,000 steps a day, but you can increase your steps in small ways, such as frequent walks around the block or going up and down stairs a few times instead of using a lift.

How many steps a day is good and healthy?

This will depend on the individual. Ten thousand steps is a nice round figure that many people stick to, and research suggests it has benefits. But some scientists now say the benefits may plateau around 8,000.

Walking 10,000 steps a day is a motivating target, and research shows it has multiple health benefits compared with inactivity. However, some scientists argue that fewer steps might be enough.

To increase your activity levels, it’s a good idea to build up over time or have slightly lower expectations if you have health or mobility issues.

If you include steps from other types of exercise, gardening, and walking from the car park to the office, you may well find you’re already on the way to 10,000.