How many steps should you walk a day?

What happens to your body when you start walking?

September 22 marks World Car Free Day, when all car owners are urged to give up driving their four-wheeled friend and walk. This becomes even more urgent in light of the fact that most of us are familiar with the statement – to be in great physical shape and have no health problems, you need to take 10,000 steps a day.

Why 10,000 steps?

An entire industry has been built on the axiom that 10,000 steps a day is necessary for health. This is the figure that most digital pedometers – fitness trackers, mobile phone apps, smart watches – have as their daily goal. But where did this magic number come from? Let’s try to figure it out.

On the one hand, this is quite an attractive figure – you should agree that the statement “I have taken 10,000 steps today” sounds ambitious and proud. On the other hand, it is always easier to remember a round number. And yet it is considered that the hypothesis about the benefit of such a number – it’s just a marketing ploy invented in the mid-1960s in Japan by pedometer developers Manpo-Kei, which in Japanese means “meter of 10 thousand steps”.

It resembled an onion-shaped clock and was designed to be worn on a belt or in a pocket. It used a mechanism with a weight, which reacts to steps on the principle of a pendulum, and a simple counter with a final mark of 10,000 steps. That is how much, in the opinion of Dr. Yoshiro Hatano, a young Kyushu University scientist, the author of this fitness gadget, was enough for an average Japanese to solve the problem of a sedentary and obese lifestyle. Dr Hatano assumed his fellow citizens take up to 4,000 steps a day and overeat by about 300-400 kcal. Increasing the daily rate to 10,000 steps would burn an additional 500 kcal.

To be fair, there isn’t that much scientific research today that proves that this exact number of steps, rather than 8 / 12 / 15 thousand, would be ideal for long-term health.

Does everyone need to take 10,000 steps a day?

It is known that a sedentary lifestyle is bad, and if you do on average less than 5 thousand steps a day, it can lead to overweight or obesity, in addition, the risk of bone mass loss, muscle atrophy and many other problems increases.

A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that people who walked more than 5,000 steps a day had a much lower risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke than those who walked less. And another scientific paper published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health suggests that women who walked at least 5,000 steps a day had a much lower risk of overweight and high blood pressure than those who did not.

However, there are currently concerns that moving too quickly to 10,000 steps per day may have adverse effects on those who are used to a sedentary lifestyle, such as blue-collar and elderly people, and those with chronic conditions or type 2 diabetes.

At the same time, there are those who exceed the norm of tens of thousands of steps – children, runners, members of some professions and many other categories – so we can conclude that this goal is not suitable for everyone. In addition, there are already studies showing that more steps lead to increased health benefits.


Scientists from the University of Tennessee (USA) conducted a study back in 2004 in the Amish farming community, where the lifestyle has not changed noticeably over the past 150 years. For example, they hardly ever drive cars, and their preferred occupation is still labour-intensive farming. The participants of the experiment wore an electronic pedometer for 7 days and filled in a journal, where they noted the number of steps taken and types of physical activity on a daily basis. The average number of steps per day for men was 18,425, and 14,196 for women, respectively. The researchers concluded that high levels of physical activity may contribute to the low prevalence of obesity in the Amish – no obesity at all in men and 9 percent of the population in women.

Researchers studying the effects of physical activity, including exercise, on humans are now aiming for more research to see if more steps have long-term health benefits compared to the traditional ten thousand steps.

Benefits of walking as a sport

Walking is one of the safest and most versatile forms of movement. It has no gradients like running, so there are no negative effects on the joints during walking. Few physical activities offer as many benefits as regular walking. And trying to take tens of thousands of steps (or any number depending on your current activity level) is a great way to motivate yourself to just get up and start moving more. Almost every part of your body will benefit as a result. Here are 10 positive effects you can expect from doing this task.

1. Your heart will become more resilient

Regular physical activity helps increase the amount of oxygenated blood sent to your muscles. Your heart’s stroke volume, which is how much blood the heart pumps in one beat, also increases. All of this increases your resistance to various diseases, and increases your life expectancy.


A study among postal workers in Glasgow, Scotland, which was published in the International Journal of Obesity, found that those who worked in mail delivery and took 15,000 steps a day had a thinner waist and lower risk of coronary heart disease.

2. It will strengthen your lungs

Daily walking strengthens not only your lungs, but also the muscles around them. As the rate and volume of oxygen you breathe in increases, your body’s ability to use it efficiently increases.

3. It strengthens your bones

Physical activity (especially weight-bearing exercise) puts extra strain on your bones, which helps to improve their density and reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis later on. Walking, or even better, running, is a great place to start.

4. it improves your brain function

Physical activity promotes the release of feel-good hormones, such as endorphins, and increases blood flow to the brain, which leads to improved cognitive function. Therefore, when you move regularly, you not only experience less anxiety, but you also work on increasing your creativity, productivity and concentration.


A study published in Current Biology found that just one workout improves the brain’s ability to reorganize, repair and adapt to new situations. Another study published in The Journal of Physiology, where the subjects were rats, found that aerobic exercise, such as walking, can also stimulate the growth of new cells in the hippocampus, an area of the brain that regulates emotion and memory.

5. You will be building muscle

Daily physical activity leads to an increase in muscle mass and also increases endurance.

6. it helps stabilize blood sugar levels

When you are physically active, your muscles use more glucose in the blood. Being active also helps insulin work more efficiently in your body.

7. Improves flexibility

Physical activity makes you more flexible, which in turn helps improve your posture and reduces your risk of injury.


A study published in the journal Obesity Science and Practice proved that when it comes to weight loss, 10,000 steps a day is equal in effectiveness to five 30-minute workouts a week.

8. It can help lower your blood pressure

Physical activity is important for preventing and controlling high blood pressure. Walking every day can help reduce the stiffness of your blood vessels and make them more elastic, allowing blood to flow more freely.

9. Increases energy levels

Walking is a great way to boost energy levels, as it strengthens your heart and improves circulation. This, in turn, helps fight fatigue.

10. Improves your mood

Physical activity triggers the release of neurotransmitters – endorphins, serotonin and dopamine. And they play a key role in mood control.

By the way!

Interestingly enough, a person who measures the number of his or her steps may cease to truly enjoy walking. According to Jordan Etkin, a psychologist at Duke University (Durham, USA), when people are aware of a goal and start paying attention to the result, it undermines intrinsic motivation, and they end up perceiving physical activity as just another job. As a consequence, their level of happiness will be much lower than if they just walk without tracking their steps.

How many steps per day do you have to measure out?

In fact, you should walk as much as your body requires. However, setting a daily target for the number of steps is problematic for several reasons.

First, the intensity of the stride matters. Ten thousand slow steps does not equal the effect of an identical number of fast steps. This suggests that if you choose to walk slowly, you should understand that you will have to spend a longer period of time outdoors.


The World Health Organization recommends allocating 2.5 hours to moderate exercise each week, or 75 minutes to vigorous exercise. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, USA, calculated that walking at a speed of just over 4 km/h (about 100 steps per minute) can be considered as moderate exercise. Respectively, they call vigorous walking the one that exceeds 130 steps per minute. At the same time, scientists suggested that fans of walking themselves monitor their activity level, rather than relying on fitness gadgets. To do this, count the number of steps taken in 15 seconds, and then multiply the figure by four.

Secondly, to focus only on counting steps is to think narrowly. The pedometer does not take into account certain types of movement, e.g. an hour of yoga or strength training will not be accurately reflected by it. The same goes for cycling or swimming. As a result, you can get all the benefits of exercise, but never take 10,000 steps.

Third, the optimal number of steps should also be considered psychologically. For example, for some people 10,000 steps seems unattainable, so their intention to increase their daily physical activity may not be successful.


A study published in the American Journal of Health Education found that the motivation to succeed could be linked to competition: a competitive spirit motivated adolescents to be more active. At the same time, when the novelty effect faded and the goal seemed less attractive or, for some, unattainable, young people began to complain that the 10,000-step norm was unfairly set.

And finally, there is no point in setting a limit, because it is impossible to take too many steps in a day – if you can still go further, then the more you go, the better. And an arbitrary goal can too easily become a ceiling – a point where people stop just because they reach that magic number.

So just choose a goal that suits you. Even Aristotle argued that there is nothing worse for the human body than prolonged physical inactivity. In motion is life, that’s why it is the best medicine, and when it is done outdoors, the number of obvious benefits only increases.

Expert’s comment

Tatiana Butskaya, Head of the All-Russian Public Movement “Council of Mothers”, author of “Pregnancy. A Short Film 9 Months Long” and “Eat for Two. All about nutrition for pregnant women”.

According to statistics, every year 2 million people die from diseases triggered by physical inactivity. The most famous among them is obesity: insufficient physical activity leads to incomplete burning of calories and gaining excess weight. It becomes the source of a large number of health problems: diabetes, hypertension, fatty liver disease, heart disease, liver disease, musculoskeletal system and even infertility.

The human body needs physical activity. Our body is made up of 40% muscles. If they lack exercise, various body systems, especially the cardiovascular system, suffer.

To stay in shape, you need at least 2 times a week for 1-1.5 hours of fitness / play tennis / swim in the pool or every day for 45 minutes to play football / volleyball / basketball or run for 15 minutes.

It is desirable to make the load even. If you sit in the office for several days in a row and then go to the office to work on the “iron”, this is definitely stress for the body.

I have been running for a few years now. At any time of the year, in any weather, I run about 8 kilometres. It takes an hour of my time. I participate in marathon races. I have lost weight from a size 48 to a size 42 and I feel as the advertising slogan says, invigorated and full of energy!

However, not everyone is ready to give their heart to running and find time for it. Then walking can be an alternative. Thanks to the famous cardiac surgeon Leo Bokeria, the campaign “10,000 steps to life” was launched in Russia four years ago. This man is trying to involve as many people as possible in a healthy lifestyle.

Walking is the easiest and safest form of exercise. It does not require the cost of a uniform, the purchase of a subscription, or the help of a trainer. Just walk and don’t stop! Experts recommend walking on cross-country terrain. You need not only a flat road, but also ascents and descents. Then your heart rate will slow down and speed up, and your heart will work out.

If you suffer from hypertension, daily walking will help you manage it.

Not only will you improve your health, but you will also get rid of extra pounds. A one-hour walk at about five kilometres per hour “eats up” 280 calories. If you speed up to seven kilometres per hour, you can lose 460 calories.

Many people find it hard to make time for sports. But it has to be done! You can walk to the subway. If you drive a car, you can take daily walks. You may cover a shorter distance in the first days, but eventually you should walk at least 10 thousand steps every day (that’s 6-9 kilometers depending on the stride width). Five thousand or seven thousand steps is an ineffective health measure. Less than five thousand steps is nothing. If a person walks only five thousand steps in a day, they are leading a sedentary lifestyle. And this is not something I came up with. This is the conclusion of the World Health Organization.

Therefore, I urge you: install a pedometer and try to walk 10 thousand steps! This will allow you to get rid of the emerging health problems and increase your chances of longevity!

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