How Many Pedometer Steps Should You Aim for Each Day?
By Wendy Bumgardner Reviewed by Michele Stanten Updated on December 09, 2020
Is 10,000 steps per day the right number to set as your daily target? You may wonder where that number came from and whether it is a good goal for most people. Does it really indicate that you are getting enough exercise for fitness, to reduce health risks, and to support weight loss?
Why Is 10,000 Steps the Magic Number?
The goal of 10,000 steps per day was created by a pedometer company in Japan in the 1960s as a promotion. The number wasn’t based on research—it just sounded good. It became popular as it was adopted by walking clubs.
After the goal of 10,000 steps per day had been established, researchers tried to play catch-up. Studies found that the figure could be an indicator that a person was getting near the recommended amount of daily physical activity to reduce health risks.
Today, many activity monitors and pedometer apps use 10,000 steps as a standard goal.
Are 10,000 Steps Enough or Too Much?
10,000 steps can be too challenging for people who are elderly, sedentary, or who have chronic diseases. However, even a small increase in your steps per day above being inactive can make a difference to your health. Research has shown that as few as 6,000 steps per day correlated with a lower death rate in men.
If losing weight or preventing weight gain is your main concern, you may need more moderate-intensity physical activity—as much as 60 to 90 minutes most days of the week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
To meet these goals, you’d need to boost to your step count with another 3,000 to 6,000 steps, bringing the total to up to 15,000 steps per day.
Studies in an Old Order Amish community found that members walked more than the recommended steps per day and had very low levels of obesity.
Experts view 10,000 steps per day as too few for children. Children need 60 minutes per day of moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity—twice what is needed by adults. The recommended number of pedometer steps per day for children aged 6 through 12 is 12,000 for girls and 15,000 for boys.
How Active Are You Based on How Many Steps per Day You Walk?
Catrine Tudor-Locke of the University of North Carolina-Charlotte has been studying pedometer walking for years. Her research established these categories for healthy adults based on the steps per day they logged.
Sedentary Lifestyle. Under 5,000 steps per day is an indicator of being inactive. Sitting too much is known to raise health risks.
Low Active. 5,000 to 7,499 steps per day is typical of daily activity excluding sports and exercise. This level might be considered low active. The average American walks 5,900 to 6,900 steps per day, meaning most people in the U.S. fall into the low active category.
Somewhat Active. 7,500 to 9,999 steps per day likely includes some exercise or walking, and/or a job that requires more walking. The level might be considered somewhat active.5
Active. 10,000 steps per day is the point at which individuals are classified as being active. It’s a good goal for healthy people who want an easy way to know if they are getting their daily exercise.
Highly Active. Individuals who take more than 12,500 steps/day are likely to be classified as highly active.5
Increasing Your Daily Steps to Add the Equivalent of 30 Minutes of Walking
Instead of using a blanket 10,000 steps per day as a goal, you may want to take a more individualized approach. Your personal daily step goal should be based on your usual baseline plus incremental steps.
Adding 2,000 to 4,000 steps to your daily count will help you reach the recommended level of physical activity and increase your activity to burn more calories.
For example, put on a pedometer or fitness monitor or carry your smartphone with you throughout the day. Go about your usual daily activities. Check your step count at the end of the day on the device or in a pedometer app. Do this for a week to find your average.
You might note that you log only around 5,000 steps per day. Your goal should be to add the number of steps equivalent to walking for 30 minutes (which will be from 2,000 to 4,000 steps, depending on your walking speed). This is between 1 and 2 miles of walking.
Your steps per mile are determined by your height and stride length. If your app or device logs active minutes note those as well. Aim to boost that number to 30 minutes per day.
What Should Your Pedometer Step Count Goal Be?
Tudor-Locke advises that a goal of 10,000 steps per day is a good baseline. She also offers other tips to match physical activity recommendations for heart health.
Increase your daily steps by 3,000 to 4,000 steps taken during bouts of 10-minutes or longer at moderate-to-vigorous intensity (a pace of brisk walking to jogging).
Try to reach a goal of 8,900 to 9,900 steps at least five days per week with at least 3,000 steps of moderate-to-vigorous intensity bouts of 10 minutes or more.
You can set a goal of 9,150 to 10,150 steps at least three days per week with at least 3,250 steps of vigorous-intensity bouts of 10 minutes or more.