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How Many Steps Should We Walk Each Day?

Tim Boyer's picture
walk steps for weight loss

When it comes to walking for exercise, the Golden Rule of fitness is 10,000 steps per day. But is this really the number we should be shooting for, or is less okay?


In a recent CBS News report, reporters asked the question of just where did that recommended 10,000 steps per day number come from? Surprisingly, it did not come from an academic sports and exercise physiology study; but rather, a marketing campaign during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics by a Japanese company hawking their pedometer product.

So, does this mean that the recommended 10,000 steps a day is wrong? Not necessarily, as health experts appear to agree that 10,000 steps (roughly equal to 5 miles) is about right as a goal for the average person to count themselves as a cut above their sedentary peers.

Here are some facts and comparisons provided by CBS News:

• A person with a sedentary job and lifestyle averages 1,500 to 2,000 steps a day.

• The average American adult takes about 5,000 steps a day.

• The average Japanese takes about 7,168 per day

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• The average Swiss takes about 9,650 per day.

• The average Amish man takes about 18,425 steps a day

And, in comparison to what our forebears may have walked per day, one exceptional example is Poet-Naturalist Henry David Thoreau who advocated long walks for good health and is estimated to often have walked an average of 24,000 steps per day.

According to CBS News, the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends that a minimum of 150 minutes of exercise a week is needed for good health, which as it turns out translates into about 7,500 steps a day.

The message to take from this is that 10,000 steps per day is more about being a guideline to give people an idea of where they are regarding their daily fitness level—a useful marker especially for those who wear activity trackers like Fit Bit to maintain their calories-in/ calories-burned ratio for weight loss.

But if you feel that taking long walks may be out of the question for you because of your personal health limitations, here is an informative article about a new walking technique that is safe and healthy for heart failure patients.

Reference: CBS News “Is 10,000 steps a day the magic number for fitness?”