Published on May 01, 2018

10,000 Steps: Good Enough?

Reviewing steps taken on a FitBitHow many steps did you log today? It’s a popular question, and the gold standard answer is 10,000. Yet, depending on your health goals, you may need to pick up the pace.

You might be surprised to learn there’s no real science behind the 10,000-step goal. In the 1960s, a Japanese pedometer company randomly chose the number as part of a marketing campaign. Over time, it became a fitness norm. But, don’t despair. You haven’t been wasting your time (or math skills). Research shows that walking 10,000 steps every day gets you close to the recommended amount of physical activity.

By the Numbers

“The CDC recommends that healthy adults get at least 2.5 hours (150 minutes) of moderate aerobic activity or 1.15 hours (75 minutes) of vigorous aerobic activity a week,” said Michael R. Brown, DO, a family medicine physician with Meritas Health Park Plaza. “It shouldn’t be done all at once, but spread throughout the week. In fact, recent studies show exercise can be effective even if it’s only in 10-minute episodes.”

The guidelines are the minimum and can help you maintain your current weight. If you’re looking to drop a few pounds, add another 1.5-2 hours (60-90 minutes) of exercise. When counting steps, that translates into an additional 3,000-6,000 steps a day, for a total of 13,000-16,000 steps. Keep in mind, those steps don’t count if you’re strolling along at a leisurely pace.

“If you don’t have to shower after the fact, then you probably didn’t reach moderate or vigorous intensity,” Dr. Brown noted. “Even 10 minutes of moderate exercise should induce a light sweat. Vigorous activity will have you sweating within a few minutes.”

What’s Your Current Level?

Researcher Catrine Tudor-Locke identified categories for adults based on how many steps they log per day.

  • Sedentary: Less than 5,000 steps/day
  • Low Active: 5,000-7,499 steps/day (The majority of Americans are in this range.)
  • Somewhat Active: 7,500- 9,999 steps/day
  • Active to Highly Active: At least 10,000 steps/day

Get Real

Don’t let the 10,000-step goal stop you in your tracks. It’s a great goal, but it’s not always a realistic one.

Instead, set a reachable target based on where you are right now. Here’s how to get started:

  • Track your steps for one week using a pedometer or fitness tracking app.
  • Calculate your average steps per day.
  • Set a goal to add the number of steps needed to equal 30 minutes of brisk walking (typically between 2,000-4,000 steps a day, or 1-2 miles).
  • Develop the habit of walking daily, and you’ll slowly build your step count.

Working in time to walk every day isn’t as tough as it sounds. Remember, 10-minute bursts here and there count. Try:

  • Taking a short, brisk walk before work or after dinner
  • Slipping on sneakers during lunch
  • Hoofing it around the ballfield during your child’s practice
  • Grabbing some girlfriends for a quick trip around a local walking trail

The bottom line? Any amount of exercise you can squeeze in each day helps. And, if walking isn’t your thing, don’t do it. But, do something. “The most effective workout includes things you like to do,” Dr. Brown advised. “It’s important to have a few different routines so you can adapt to the seasons. Make flexibility part of that routine to keep your workouts fresh and exciting.”

Get Started

To Dr. Brown’s point, we offer more than 50 land and water classes for people of all ages and fitness levels.

Find Your Fit