Do you need to walk 10k steps per day?

written by Philip Stefanov  |  JULY 26, 2022

You’ve undoubtedly heard the suggestion to walk 10,000 steps daily for optimal health and well-being. At first glance, that seems like a nice, round objective to aim for. But, upon closer inspection, you realize just how much walking that is every day.

For reference, the average stride length is 2.5 feet or 76.2 cm. Taking 10,000 steps would mean walking 7.62 km or 4.7 miles every day. If you walk at an average speed of 3.2 mph (the range is 2.5 to 4 mph), it will take you just under 90 minutes to get your steps in.

Dedicating 90 minutes to walking isn’t that big of a commitment, but considering that most of us have jobs, families, and other obligations, walking 10,000 steps turns into an impossible task. The question is, do we genuinely need to do that much walking, or might fewer steps still benefit us? 

What Research Tells Us About Walking

Numerous studies show us that walking is beneficial for many aspects of health. Researchers have also examined the relationship between daily steps taken and mortality risk. Luckily, the actual steps we need to take to boost our health are fewer than 10,000.

In one review from 2020, researchers looked at the existing data on walking and its association with all-cause mortality, the risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic issues, etc. (1). The review included 17 studies with over 30,000 adult participants. Data suggests that for every 1,000 steps taken, the risk of early death and cardiac events decreases. More importantly, the authors point out that benefits are present at well below 10,000 steps and:

“Data are currently lacking to identify a specific minimum threshold of daily step counts needed to obtain overall health benefit.”

In other words, fewer than 10,000 steps can be great for one’s health, but a minimum hasn’t been established so far.

Another paper tracked women over four years to compare daily steps taken and health outcomes (2). Of all the initial participants, 16,741 women with an average age of 72 completed the study and used the step-tracking device as prescribed. The average steps taken were over 5,000 per day. Interestingly, as few as 4,400 steps per day seemed beneficial for health, and the benefits of walking more appeared to level off at around 7,500.

Most health resources recommend doing 150 minutes of moderately intense exercise or at least 75 minutes of highly-intense activity per week (3). These sources also list walking as a moderately-intense activity, “Examples of moderate intensity activities include: brisk walking.” So, if you walk 30 minutes daily, you would need five days to cover the minimum exercise requirement. That duration comes out to about 3,330 steps each day.

What Does It All Mean For You?

It’s important to note that the average gym-goer spends more than 150 minutes at the gym. Even if the average session lasts 45 minutes, three per week would be enough to cover your physical activity needs.

I’m not suggesting that walking is useless because it isn’t. Walking is a fantastic way to boost your health, burn extra calories, and improve your mood. I’m simply stating that you shouldn’t worry that much about walking 10,000 steps daily. It can certainly be good to include some extra walking into your life but don’t stress out over a specific number.

Thank you for taking the time. Until next week,


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