- The idea of taking 10,000 steps a day, an average of 5 miles, is a popular fitness goal.
- Most people burn around 300 to 400 calories taking 10,000 steps.
- Experts recommend increasing steps gradually, aiming for an additional 1,000 steps per day each week.
- Check out Insider’s Insider Reference Library for more advice.
The idea of taking 10,000 steps a day – just under 5 miles for someone with an average stride length of 2.2 to 2.5 feet – has become a popular fitness goal around the world.
Thomas Hirai, MD, medical director at O’Connor Hospital’s Bariatric and Metabolic Health Center in San Jose, Calif., Tells Insider that the idea of walking 10,000 steps a day came about in 1965 when a Japanese company launched a pedometer called Manpo -” developed. Kei, which means “10,000 steps meters”.
“The 10,000 step goal was met because it was catchy, easy to remember, and above the average of the daily steps for most people,” says Hirai. “It was challenging, but achievable for a lot of people.”
How many steps you take each day is only one aspect of losing weight. Learn more about how to track calorie expenditure while walking and why 10,000 steps can help you reach your goal weight, but it doesn’t always guarantee weight loss.
How Many Calories Do 10,000 Steps Burn?
Most people burn 30-40 calories per 1,000 steps, which means they burn 300 to 400 calories taking 10,000 steps, says Hirai. However, this is only an estimate. Every step you take burns calories, but the exact amount is very individual.
“The rate of calories burned can vary widely,” he says. Your weight, stride length, and fitness level will all affect your calorie expenditure, as will your pace and the incline of the area you walk, he says.
Important: Exercise is important to lose weight and maintain a healthy body. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that people exercise moderately to intensely, including walking, 150 minutes per week. You may have heard another recommendation: take 10,000 steps a day.
To get a more personal assessment of calorie burn, Hirai recommends using a measurement called the metabolic equivalent, or MET. A MET is the energy needed to sit still.
Brisk walking at just over 3 miles per hour is about 3.5 METs while going uphill is about 6 METs, Hirai said. So, use the following equation to calculate the calories you burn with METs:
Energy expenditure (in kcal / min) = 0.0175 x MET x weight (in kg)
Divide your weight in pounds by 2.2 to get your weight in kilograms. A person who weighs 68 kilograms and walks at a speed of 3 miles per hour and a speed of about 3.5 METs on a flat surface would burn about 4 calories per minute. At 3 miles per hour, it would take about 100 minutes to walk about 10,000 steps (about 5 miles) so you would burn about 400 calories.
Lots of people these days use apps or smartwatches to calculate their steps and calories burned, but Hirai says it’s good to check these numbers with the above equation to get a more accurate picture.
“One important thing to remember is not to rely solely on these calculators because you can overestimate or underestimate the calories you are consuming or burning,” he says. “But they’re helpful as they can help you track your progress and ensure consistency.”
While 10,000 steps a day is a good goal, Hirai says the key to maintaining your target weight and living a healthy lifestyle is to move consistently.
Can walking 10,000 steps every day help you reach your weight goal?
To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you eat. Most people need a calorie deficit of around 500 calories a day to lose 1 pound a week. People looking to lose weight or want to lose weight should exercise at least 150 to 200 minutes per week. 10,000 steps a day can help you achieve these goals.
What the research says: According to a 2018 study, people who took 10,000 steps a day were more likely to lose more weight than those who took 3,500 steps a day on a weight loss program.
Still, you are more likely to lose weight if you also focus on eating healthy, says Hirai.
“Weight loss through exercise is much more effective when combined with a supervised diet strategy,” he says.
Is It Safe To Walk 10,000 Steps?
Walking is considered to be one of the easiest and safest types of exercise. However, if you’re not currently exercising, jumping 10,000 steps a day can cause injury, says Hirai.
“It helps to increase the number of steps a day and stay as active as possible, but it is also important to avoid injury when embarking on the weight loss journey,” he says.
People who are very overweight, the elderly, or have other health concerns should be particularly careful. Hirai recommends that people gradually increase their steps and aim for 1,000 additional steps per day every week until they reach their goal.
Important: If you’re not currently exercising, jumping 10,000 steps a day can cause injury. Experts recommend people gradually increase their steps and aim for 1,000 additional steps per day every week until they reach their goal.
When people consistently achieve their goal of taking 10,000 steps a day, they can trade off walking for an activity with a higher MET like jogging or swimming to increase calorie consumption, Hirai says.
Research shows that taking more steps per day can decrease mortality for whatever reason. The benefit of more step plateaus at 7,500 steps per day – beyond that, you don’t get any additional benefit when you hit 10,000, the researchers found.
Insider to take away
The advice to take 10,000 steps a day is a marketing slogan, not a science. However, science has shown that more exercise – which can be measured by more steps – is important for health.
Overall, an active, healthy lifestyle is the best way to achieve permanent weight loss, says Hirai. Challenge yourself to get 10,000 steps could be part of it, but any exercise routine that you do consistently is a good choice, he says.
“In reality, there may not be a magic number,” says Hirai.