For general fitness, most adults should aim for 10,000 steps per day. This figure may rise or fall depending on a person’s age, current fitness level, and health goals.
This recommendation comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Walking is an effective form of low impact exercise that can help people improve or maintain their physical fitness.
In this article, we look in more detail at how many steps people should take each day for:
- general health
- weight loss
- physical strength
We also look at the requirements for different age groups and sexes and explain how to take more steps each day.
Walking is a form of low impact, moderate intensity exercise that has a range of health benefits and few risks. As a result, the CDC recommend that most adults aim for 10,000 steps per day. For most people, this is the equivalent of about 8 kilometers, or 5 miles.
Most people in the United States only take 3,000–4,000 steps per day, which equates to about 1.5–2 miles. As doctors generally consider fewer than 5,000 steps per day to be sedentary, this means that many people in the U.S. are not getting as many steps as they should to benefit their health.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, walking can improve:
- muscle strength
- range of motion
- blood flow
- balance, which can help prevent falls
- joint stiffness
- mood and sleep
Walking can also help improve or prevent certain health conditions, such as obesity, osteoporosis, and age-related memory loss.
The benefits of walking appear to increase with step count. A 2020 study found that participants who took 8,000 steps per day had a 51% lower risk of dying by any cause compared with those who took 4,000 per day.
This trend continued with higher step counts, as participants who took 12,000 steps per day had a 65% lower risk of dying than those who took 4,000.
This finding suggests that the benefits of walking increase with step count but also shows that people who cannot reach 10,000 steps in a day can still benefit from the activity.
The number of steps to take for weight loss can vary depending on an individual’s current weight, food intake, and target weight. However, 10,000 steps is a good goal for most people.
Some evidence suggests that for weight loss, exercise intensity is also important.
A 2018 analysis of 363 people with obesity found that those who took 10,000 steps per day and spent at least 3,500 of those steps engaged in moderate-to-vigorous activity lasting for bouts of 10 minutes or longer experienced enhanced weight loss.
Keeping up this level of activity helped participants maintain their weight loss until the 18-month follow-up.
The study included a mix of white, Black, Latinx, and Asian participants, most of whom were female. However, the researchers state that further clinical trials are necessary to validate these results.
If a person wishes to use walking as a way to improve their strength, flexibility, or stamina, they may also benefit from more intense forms of walking.
For example, walking uphill activates three times more muscle fibers than walking on a flat surface. People who get many of their 10,000 steps walking up hills will, therefore, get a more thorough workout.
Other ways to get more cardiovascular benefits from walking and boost muscle strength include:
- climbing stairs
- stepping up and down on a stool
- walking briskly for sustained periods
- focusing on objects in the distance, which can increase walking speed by up to 23%
- wearing weighted wrist or ankle straps
- Nordic walking, which involves the use of poles to work out the upper and lower body
The average walking speed in the U.S. is about 3 miles per hour (mph). To increase walking speed, people can try keeping pace with up-tempo music. For example, taking steps in time with the beat of popular chart hits can help people walk at a rate of 3.5–5 mph.
There is no conclusive evidence that natal sex affects the number of steps that a person should take. Therefore, 10,000 steps per day is a suitable goal for males and females.
Brisk walking is also a safe exercise during pregnancy. The CDC recommend that pregnant people get 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week.