Got a symptom but not sure what's causing it? Use our award-winning Smart Symptom Checker to find out – it's free!

5 min read

The 10,000 steps challenge

Medically reviewed

All of Healthily's articles undergo medical safety checks to verify that the information is medically safe. View more details in our safety page, or read our editorial policy.

Walking more, whether it's for work or leisure, is an easy way of being more active without trying too hard.

Setting yourself a target of walking 10,000 steps a day can be a fun way of increasing the amount of physical activity you do.

Sometimes overlooked as a form of exercise, walking can help you build stamina, burn excess calories and give you a healthier heart.

What's so great about walking?

Walking can be done almost anywhere, at any time, and in any weather. It's a great way to get from A to B, which means you can fit walking into your daily routine. Walking is classed as a moderate-intensity activity and counts towards your recommended 150 minutes of weekly exercise. If you walk 10,000 steps a day, you will probably do more than 150 minutes and that's great: research suggests that the more activity you do the better, as regular exercise has many benefits.

How do I know how many steps I'm taking?

The average person walks between 3,000 and 4,000 steps per day. To find out how many steps you take each day, use a pedometer. If you have a smartphone, you may be able to download a pedometer app. Pedometers measure your every step: around the house, across the office, window shopping, to school or the park. You might find that you walk almost 10,000 steps (about five miles a day) already, or that you walk less than you think. Whatever your results, knowing how far you can walk in a day can be motivating.

How many calories will I burn if I walk 10,000 steps a day?

A person aged 45 and weighing 70kg (about 11 stone) can burn around 400kcal (1,673kJ) by walking 10,000 steps briskly (3-5mph). If you're trying to lose weight, you should aim to reduce your daily calorie intake by 600kcal. This is best achieved by a combination of diet and exercise.

What if I don’t do any exercise at the moment?

If you're not very active, increase your walking distance gradually. If your joints are a problem, you can see if your local swimming pool holds exercise classes. The water helps to support your joints while you move, and once you lose a bit of weight, that will reduce the pressure on your joints.

What’s the best way to start?

Using a pedometer, find out how many steps you take during a normal day. Build your steps gradually, by adding a few more steps every so often, until you're regularly walking 10,000 steps a day. Read our page on walking for health for more ideas on increasing your step count.

10,000 steps sounds a lot. How do I fit all that walking into my busy day?

Increasing your walking is easier than you think. Try these tips for getting more steps into your life:

  • get off the bus early and walk the rest of the way home or to work
  • walk to the station instead of taking the car or bus
  • take the stairs instead of the lift, or walk up escalators
  • invest in a shopping trolley and shop locally if you can
  • walk the children to school, whatever the weather
  • walk the dog

I find walking boring. How can I make it more fun?

  • find a walking partner, so you have someone to chat to as you walk
  • listen to your favourite music or podcasts as you go
  • plan interesting walks during your days off
  • join a walking group (e.g. if you live in the UK, you could join the walking group the Ramblers)

How long do I have to keep walking?

The rest of your life! Being active is a lifelong health habit. It's great for preventing weight gain, lifting your mood, and reducing your risk of many serious diseases, such as heart disease. It takes a while for a regular activity to become a healthy habit, so just keep going and it will become second nature. You’ll probably find yourself doing more than 10,000 steps on some days.

What if I can’t walk for a few days due to illness or a holiday?

Walking is a gentle form of exercise that is easy to get back into after a break. Just start again when you can, and build up slowly if you've been ill. The sooner you get back into the exercise groove, the better. When going on a holiday, choose one where you'll have plenty of opportunities to walk – for instance, along the beach or through the countryside.

Is walking enough? Or should I think about other exercise as well?

If you're achieving at least 150 minutes of physical activity from walking, then you are meeting official health guidelines. If you want to add some variety to your activity, you could visit your local fitness centre and see what's on offer. Some people enjoy competitive sports, while others prefer sociable physical activity, such as dancing. You can get more ideas by reading: Get active your way.

Content supplied byNHS
Was this article helpful?

Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.