For overall fitness, most adults should aim for 10,000 steps per day. This figure may vary depending on age, current physical condition and health goals.
Walking is an effective form of low-impact exercise that can help people improve or maintain their physical fitness.
In this article, we take a closer look at how many steps people should take each day to:
We also look at the requirements for different age groups and genders and explain how to take more steps each day.
How many steps do you have to take to be healthy?
Walking is a low-impact, moderate-intensity form of exercise that has a range of health benefits and few risks. As a result, most adults should aim for 10,000 steps per day. For most people, this equates to about 8 kilometers.
In Europe, most people only take 3,000 to 4,000 steps a day. As doctors generally consider less than 5,000 steps per day to be sedentary, this means that many Europeans are not taking as many steps as they should for good health.
Walking can improve:
range of motion
balance, which can help prevent falls
mood and sleep
Walking can also help improve or prevent certain health problems, such as obesity, osteoporosis and age-related memory loss.
The benefits of walking seem to increase with the number of steps. A 2020 study found that participants who took 8,000 steps per day were 51% less likely to die from any cause than those who took 4,000 steps per day. This trend continues with higher step counts, as participants who take 12,000 steps per day have a 65% lower risk of death than those who take 4,000. These results suggest that the benefits of walking increase with the number of steps, but also show that people who cannot reach 10,000 steps per day can still benefit from this activity.
How many steps do you need to take to lose weight?
The number of steps to lose weight can vary depending on the person’s current weight, food intake and target weight. However, 10,000 steps is a good goal for most people. There is some evidence to suggest that for weight loss exercise intensity is also important.
A 2018 analysis of 363 people with obesity found that those who took 10,000 steps a day and devoted at least 3,500 of those steps to moderate-to-vigorous activity lasting 10 minutes or more had a loss increased weight. Maintaining this level of activity helped participants maintain their weight loss through the 18-month follow-up.
How many steps to improve fitness?
If a person wishes to use walking as a way to improve strength, flexibility, or endurance, they may also benefit from more strenuous forms of walking. For example, walking uphill activates three times more muscle fibers than walking on a flat surface. People who do a large part of their 10,000 steps by walking in hills therefore benefit from a more complete training.
Here are other ways to get cardiovascular benefits from walking and build muscle strength:
to go upstairs
get on and off a stool
walking at a brisk pace for prolonged periods
focus on objects in the distance, which can increase walking speed by up to 23%.
wearing weighted bracelets on the wrist or ankle.
Nordic walking, which involves using poles to work the upper and lower body.
The average walking speed is about 4.5 km per hour. To increase walking speed, you can try following the rhythm of upbeat music. For example, taking steps to the rhythm of a popular hit parade can help people walk at a speed of 8 km/h.
Steps by gender
There is no conclusive evidence that gender affects the number of steps a person takes. Therefore, 10,000 steps per day is a suitable goal for both men and women.
Brisk walking is also a safe exercise during pregnancy.
Stages by age
Most adults need a similar level of physical activity for optimal health. However, children, adolescents and the elderly have different needs:
Children ages 3 to 5 should stay physically active throughout the day. It’s unclear how many steps this represents, but for most children it means participating in active play every day.
6-17 years old
Children and teens ages 6 to 17 should get at least 60 minutes of aerobic and strengthening exercise daily. A 2012 study estimated this to be equivalent to 11,290-12,512 steps. Therefore, 12,000 steps can be a useful goal for people in this age group. However, at least one hour of this activity should be of moderate to vigorous intensity.
Older adults can aim for a similar step count as younger adults. However, when this is not possible, a lower number of steps can still provide significant benefits. A large 2019 study of older women showed that participants who walked 4,400 steps per day had a lower mortality rate after 4.3 years than those who only walked 2,700 steps per day. In this study, the more steps people took, the lower the death rate. However, this trend stabilized at around 7,500 steps per day. This result suggests that a goal of 7,000 to 8,000 steps may be sufficient for older adults to derive significant benefits from walking. This study did not look at the other benefits of walking, such as its impact on cardiovascular health.
Taking more steps can be a challenge, especially for people who are short on time or face other obstacles that prevent them from walking more frequently.
However, there are many ways to include more steps in daily life, such as
take the stairs instead of using elevators or escalators
walking around during lunch break, on a date with friends or talking on the phone
use restrooms or meeting rooms further away in an office building
taking breaks from work, TV, or reading to do something active
trying new ways to take more steps, such as dancing or hiking
park farther than usual from shops or other destinations
get off public transport one stop earlier and walk the rest of the way
walk to or from work, if possible.
Some research shows that people who track their daily step count walk an average of 2,500 more steps per day than people who don’t. Therefore, some people may benefit from using a pedometer, smartwatch, or an app to track steps through a smartphone. It is important to warm up before exercising and cool down afterwards to avoid injury. If walking causes pain, a person should stop as soon as possible. If the pain is severe, recurrent or persistent, she should see a doctor.
Current guidelines suggest that most adults should aim for around 10,000 steps per day. People with specific goals, such as weight loss or muscle building, may benefit from increased walking intensity. The benefits of walking appear to increase with physical activity. Older children and teens can aim for nearly 12,000 steps, while those older or unable to walk for long can still benefit from lower step counts.