10,000 steps. Daily.
Or, at least, that’s the typical reply to the question, "How many steps each day should I be walking?"
But if you’re like most people living a modern, obsessed-with-convenience life (we can get anything delivered to the doorstep these days!), 10,000 steps daily is a herculean task.
Sometimes, even hitting 5,000 steps can be a struggle.
Guess what, though? That's perfectly OK.
You need waaaay fewer than 10,000 steps to see serious health and weight loss benefits.
How many steps each day?
That said, how many steps each day you should take (exactly) ultimately comes down to your goal.
How many steps each day for overall health
For example, if it’s for overall health?
A 2023 meta-analysis of 12 studies published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that you could:
❤️ See cardiovascular health benefits, including fewer heart attacks and strokes, with as little as 2,800 steps per day
A further increase in step count was associated with progressive risk reductions in both outcomes (up to 8,800 steps for mortality and 7,200 steps for cardiovascular health).
You don't need to think, "Omg, I need to hit 10,000 steps daily to get healthier," get overwhelmed, and then end up not moving throughout the day.
Instead, know that you can start small — and will still see benefits.
And that is why your mindset is so, so important:
For reference, if you're 170 cm (~ 5 ft 7 in) and walk at a pace of 5 kmph (~ 3.1 mph), just 2 km (~ 1.24 mi) would already get you 2,783 steps in the bag. Not bad at all.
How many steps each day to lose weight
Now, what about weight loss? It ultimately comes down to your current total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) and target calorie deficit.
Let’s work through the (hypothetical) numbers together:
- TDEE: 1,800
- Target calorie deficit: 300
Doing some quick math, your daily calorie intake should thus be 1,500.
Speaking of … should you be counting your calories?
For some people, this could be a totally workable calorie intake, while for others, 1,500 measly calories will be misery-inducing and quite literally feel like starvation.
If you relate (hard) with the second group of people, there's another way to "create" the necessary calorie deficit.
Which is increasing your TDEE via taking more steps.
Think about it this way. Every additional calorie you burn by walking is an extra calorie you can eat.
So, if you burn an additional 150 calories through walking — this brings your TDEE to 1,950 — you’d be able to consume 1,650 calories daily while maintaining a 300-calorie deficit.
Um … but how many steps each day would you need to walk to burn 150 calories? Wouldn’t it be, like, so many?
Once again, if you’re 170 cm (~ 5 ft 7 in) and weigh 73 kg (160 lb.), you’d burn 158 calories just by hitting 4,000 steps.
Of course, if you’re purely looking at efficiency or calorie-burn-per-minute, walking will never win other, arguably more “strenuous” cardio forms, such as:
🏊 Swimming, leisurely, general: 6.0 MET
🚴 Bicycling, general: 7.5 MET
FYI: walking from point A to point B has a MET value of 2.5.
*1 MET is the energy you spend at rest (i.e., your basal metabolic rate); an activity with 6 METS means you’re burning 6x the energy than you would if you were sitting still.
But total calorie burn isn’t the only thing that matters
Given those MET values and assuming your BMR is 1,500 (which works out to 62.5 calories per hour), 1 hour of:
🏃 Running, 9.7 kmph (6 mph): 612.5 calories
🏊 Swimming, leisurely, general: 375 calories
🚴 Bicycling, general: 468.8 calories
Huge difference — especially when comparing walking and running.
Despite this, there are still a handful of compelling reasons you should consider walking as your primary form of cardio and/or way of staying within your calorie deficit for weight loss purposes:
- Makes for easy recovery + low impact, minimizes the cardio and strength training interference effect
- Unlikely to ramp up your appetite as other cardio types (psst: here are 5 ways to better manage hunger levels)
- You can spread it out throughout your day (e.g., 1,500 steps each in the morning, afternoon, and evening)
- In other words … it’s possible to do it every day
Tips for squeezing in more steps
Regardless of whether you’re averaging far less or close to your target step count for health/weight loss benefits, here are a few tips that’ll help you get more steps in:
2️⃣ Go for afternoon walks around your house or office
2️⃣ Take the longer route to the office or home sometimes; you can also choose to park at a spot furthest from your destination
4️⃣ You don’t have to “reserve” the steps for outside the gym — you could also just complete your walk on the treadmill (and pump up the incline occasionally for added challenge)
Your daily steps are just a piece of the puzzle
Of course, optimizing your health and/or weight loss journey calls for more than getting enough steps daily. It’s also about:
- What else you do to move your body. A special mention goes to resistance training. The muscle mass it helps you maintain and/or build is vital for optimal health and appetite regulation.
- How you fuel your body. Not every calorie is created equal. For example, 300 calories from an ultra-processed food, like potato chips, is unlikely to satiate and nourish you as much as the equivalent calories from a well-balanced meal of carbs, fat, and protein with a pairing of fruits and vegetables.
And if you need help with your training and diet plan? Check out GymStreak. This smart, AI-powered (nope, not by ChatGPT!) personal trainer app will tailor your workout and nutrition plans according to your training goals, experience, dietary preferences, etc.
It's a real game-changer. You should check it out.
*sigh of relief* We'll guide you through it all — step-by-step. Just download the app, and you'll be making progress toward your dream body like never before.
Compendium of Physical Activities. https://sites.google.com/site/compendiumofphysicalactivities/home. Accessed 19 Oct. 2023.
“How to Convert Your Steps Into Calories.” Verywell Fit, https://www.verywellfit.com/pedometer-steps-to-calories-converter-3882595. Accessed 19 Oct. 2023.
“Km to Steps Calculator.” The Calculator Site, https://www.thecalculatorsite.com/health/km-steps.php. Accessed 19 Oct. 2023.
Stens, Niels A., et al. “Relationship of Daily Step Counts to All-Cause Mortality and Cardiovascular Events.” Journal of the American College of Cardiology, vol. 82, no. 15, Oct. 2023, pp. 1483–94. PubMed, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jacc.2023.07.029.
Tremblay, Angelo, and France Bellisle. “Nutrients, Satiety, and Control of Energy Intake.” Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism = Physiologie Appliquee, Nutrition Et Metabolisme, vol. 40, no. 10, Oct. 2015, pp. 971–79. PubMed, https://doi.org/10.1139/apnm-2014-0549.