How Many Steps Per Day Should You Walk For Weight Loss?

by Evelyn Valdez

Since the Fitbit and other step-counting watches and apps grew in popularity, people have been obsessed with the idea of walking 10,000 steps per day in order to lose weight or to just be overall healthy. But 10k steps a day is a lot, and although it seems like it would be beneficial to your health to do so, do you really need to walk 10,000 steps a day in order to lose weight or to be considered 'healthy'? 

There's no denying that walking has its health benefits, but we're going to breakdown whether you really need to walk 10k steps a day or if it's just a bunch of fiction! That way you can develop a walking plan for weight loss that fits you, not just a general number you should aim for everyday.

Why 10,000 steps?

The U.S Department of Health and Human Services recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. This could be accomplished by any type of physical activity, not necessarily a specific number of steps.

So, why is everyone focused on 10,000 steps?

The answer might surprise you... This number has been linked to a popular Japanese pedometer marketing campaign that started in 1965. [1] Basically, it was a number drafted for marketing purposes, not actual research! Other studies have also found that healthy adults take an average of 4,000 to 18,000 daily steps. [2] 

So, the number really stuck around because of marketing and based on studies that have shown it's a reasonable and approachable daily goal. However, don't get stuck on that daily step count! Everyone's physical abilities and goals are different, so don't sweat it if you're not getting in 10000 steps a day. You can walk less than 10k steps a day and still reap weight loss and other health benefits.

How many steps should I walk per day?

There really is no magic number! It all depends on your lifestyle, and what your fitness goals are. Are you trying to achieve a weight loss goal? Or is brisk walking just a physical activity you're taking on to improve your overall health and wellness? Whatever the case is, only you can come up with a good goal for yourself. 

To help, here's a breakdown of average steps you can take based on your activity level:

  • Mostly inactive and sedentary: 1,000-5,000
  • Low activity levels: 5,000-7,499
  • ​Somewhat active: 7,500-9,999
  • Active: 10,000+
  • Very Active: 12,500+

 

Just don't get too hung up on hitting a daily step count. You don't need to stop tracking your daily steps, but instead, focus more on how long and how often you walk. Studies have shown that this has a much stronger relationship with your health. For those who want to have healthier blood pressure and reduce their risk of other cardiovascular diseases, scientists recommend getting at least 30 minutes of walking in, 5-7 times each week. Walking like this will also help keep your blood sugar levels lower, reducing how much insulin (a fat-making hormone) your body releases.

Tips for maximizing your daily steps

You can use a 10,000 step goal, or use the above tips to help you come up with your own goal. Once you have it in mind it's time to get stepping!

Here are a few ways to maximize your walks so you can meet your daily goal and possibly get a few extra steps in...

  • Schedule it: Make walking a habit by locking it in your calendar. This will help you actually make time to go on a walk. If you don't, laziness can creep in and stop you from going on your walk.
  • Break it up: Make walking more approachable by breaking it up. If 30 minutes of walking at a time doesn't fit into your schedule then consider going on multiple mini walks. You can schedule a 10-minute walk in the morning, one during lunch, and one after dinner!
  • Have a walking buddy: Get a friend, family, or dog involved with your walking commitment! It'll make your walk a breeze and make it more enjoyable.
  • Walk and talk: If you have long conference calls at work, or love talking to family members on the phone after a long day, then walk while you chat! This is a great way to get some extra steps in.
  • Mix it up: Don't do the same walking routine week after week. Change it up! If you usually walk on a treadmill, switch things up by going on a walk around your neighborhood or find a nearby walking trail. If you have more free time than usual consider going on a hike instead of a walk to really maximize your steps! This will help keep walking interesting and fun, so you don't get bored too quickly.
  • Take the stairs and park far: Get extra steps in by taking the stairs instead of the elevator and escalators, or by parking far!
  • Run errands: Don't put off your errands, or send someone else to do them! Use it as an opportunity to get your daily steps in!

 

How can you create a walking plan for weight loss?

It's very possible to achieve weight loss through walking, you just need the right tools to set up an effective plan! You can aim to hit a specific daily step number, but focus more on the intensity of your walk. The key is to have your heart rate reach a moderate intensity level, so anywhere between 50-70% of your heart rate. If you don't have a fitness watch or pedometer then just focus on how you feel. Your breathing should be harder than usual, but not so hard that you're unable to talk.

Aside from intensity, you should aim to go on a brisk walk for 30-90 minutes at least 4-5x a week. Keep a brisk pace and if you can, add an incline! Walking up hill will take your walking workouts to the next level without needing to increase the speed or the duration. But as always, work your way up to it. Increase the incline on a treadmill at a steady pace and work your way up to the max level, or start by doing small hikes and moving on to bigger hikes as you make progress!

We also suggest implementing some type of strength training routine to help maximize your weight loss even further! Having an effective walking plan and a strength training routine will not only help you lose weight, it'll also help you build and maintain muscle, change your body composition, and help improve your overall health!

Bottomline is, don't get too hung up on your step goal. Not hitting your daily steps on your fitness tracker isn't the end of the world. The key to being healthy is being more physically active. Walking is just one of many daily activities you can include in your life that will help you stay active and healthy. And remember, everyone's goals are different, so set your daily step goal based on what your intentions are. If weight loss is the main goal, focus on increasing your steps gradually, doing more aerobic exercise, or other moderate-intensity exercise. But don't let this goal rule your life. The key is to walk more, be more active in other areas, and eat healthier to live a healthy balanced life!

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