Do I Really Need 10000 Steps A Day?

Reaching 10000 steps a day is one way boost your overall health, but it’s far from the only factor. In fact, if you only focus on a step goal you could be neglecting other key areas of your health.

To optimise your health, there are three key factors you should focus on:

  1. You should achieve adequate nutrition, by eating enough protein and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables
  2. Perform muscle-strengthening activities at least twice a week
  3. Be active on most days, preferably every day[2]

Even if you’re falling short of 10000 steps a day, if you are achieving in these three areas, you can still achieve optimal mental and physical health. It doesn’t really matter whether “being active” means going for a brisk walk to hit 10000 steps, mowing the lawn or playing in the park with your kids. Any kind of physical activity will help improve your physical and mental health.

This activity will help reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, maintain or improve blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of some cancers. It will also help you to maintain a healthy weight, strong muscles and bones and develop mental wellbeing.[1]

Why 10000 steps?

If hitting 10000 steps isn’t really that important, why is it so popular? This target is so common that you could be forgiven for assuming it originated from research. However, it actually came from a Japanese company which sells pedometers. The company began using the goal in 1965 as a marketing tool for its product called “Manpo-kei” (Manpo means 10,000 steps in Japanese).[3]

Since then, there has been plenty of research which backs up the target. Some studies have shown that people who aim to reach 10000 steps experience benefits such as improved heart health, mental health and a lowered risk of diabetes. However, researchers have also suggested that reaching this target may be less important than simply participating.[4] This means that simply working towards such a goal may be more important for your health than if you actually hit it every day.

How many steps per day is enough?

A study from Harvard Medical School found that just 4400 steps a day is enough to significantly lower the risk of death in older women, when compared to only walking around 2700 steps a day. The more steps participants in the study took per day, the lower their mortality rate up. However, at approximately 7500 steps researchers found the risk of dying levelled off and no additional benefits were seen with more steps.[5] While it’s one example of how moving more each day can improve your health, how many steps you should do will be highly individualised. Not everyone will hit 10000, and not everyone can.

How many steps a day for health?

How many steps you should do per day for health will come down to your personal goals and lifestyle. At Plexus, we recommend our clients do strength training twice a week and aim to be active every day. For many, this means going for a walk, however it doesn’t really matter whether this means reaching 10000 steps. What really matters is that you are active in a way that is both enjoyable and maintainable for you. This will help you achieve the best possible long-term health outcomes.

Walking can also help you get optimal results out of your strength training. This is because walking is a form of active recovery. Active recovery is when a person uses non-strenuous exercises, such as stretching or walking to stimulate blood flow. This blood flow brings nutrient-rich blood and oxygen to your muscles, helping to speed up recovery and get you ready for your next workout.[6]

How many steps per day to lose weight?

The exact number of calories you burn on a one-hour walk (approximately 3,500 steps[7]) will depend on your body weight and walking pace. However, most people will burn between 210 and 360 calories. If you did this five days a week, that equates to burning an extra 1,050 to 1,800 calories a week. This means that you could burn the equivalent of around 200g of fat a week by walking for one-hour, five times a week.[8]

Any kind of activity, including going for a walk, will increase how many calories your body uses. Remember the harder you work, the more calories you will burn. This means if you pick up the pace or walk on more difficult terrain, you will use up more energy.

It’s important that if you are trying to lose weight that you pay attention to more than just the calories you burn. The number one thing which will determine your body composition is your nutrition. If you want to lose fat, you need to be in a calorie deficit. This means you are eating less calories than your body uses.[9] You can achieve this by eating less calories, or burning more calories than you consume.

In order to lose fat you should be consuming 10-30% less calories than you use. To calculate how many calories this would be for you, read Nutrition Essentials Pt 2: How to Lose Fat and Build Muscle. Ideally, you will combine exercise with consuming enough calories to provide your body with its nutritional needs. This will allow you to optimise your health on your weight loss journey.

Leading a balanced life

If you want to lead a healthy, balanced lifestyle, getting 10000 steps a day shouldn’t be your main priority. Rather than setting a mandatory step goal, you should instead aim to do strength training twice a week, eat adequate protein and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and be active on most days. While everyone should try and reduce the amount of time they spend being sedentary, you should be getting active in whatever way that suits you and that you enjoy.