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25th January, 20214 min read

Do you really need to take 10,000 steps a day?

Do you really need to take 10,000 steps a day?
Medical reviewer: Dr Ann Nainan
Author: Helen Prentice
Last reviewed: 25/01/2021
Medically reviewed

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

Taking regular walks is an ideal way to get more active and stay healthy – it’s easy, great for people who are new to exercise and doesn’t cost anything. It might not be the first thing you think of for keeping you fit, but walking can help build stamina, burn calories and keep your heart working well.

But how much do you need to walk to see the benefits? Generally, you should do some sort of physical activity every day – and the more you can do, the better. In the UK, the NHS advises doing at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week.

You may have also heard that you should take 10,000 steps a day. But is there any scientific evidence to back this up? Read on to learn more about where this idea comes from, the benefits of walking, and how you can walk more in your daily life.

Why 10,000 steps a day?

During the past few years, pedometers and other devices that count how many steps you take have become very popular. Studies suggest that they can encourage you to be more active, as you can measure what you’ve done and set yourself targets. If you own one of these fitness trackers, you may have had walking 10,000 steps a day recommended to you as a goal for staying healthy.

However, it seems that the number 10,000 may have been developed as a marketing tactic. It first became popular after being used by a Japanese business selling pedometers called ‘Manpo-kei’ – which means ‘10,000 steps meter’ in Japanese.

And if taking 10,000 steps a day sounds too hard, the good news is that you can get some of the benefits of walking by taking less. In fact, one study found that taking just 4,400 steps a day was linked with a reduced risk of dying in older people.

Older people walking on beach

The health benefits of walking

Whether or not you’re managing 10,000 steps a day, there’s plenty of scientific evidence that doing something physically active, such as walking, has loads of health benefits, including improving your fitness and burning calories.

Regular exercise can also reduce your risk of health issues, including:

  • coronary heart disease and stroke
  • type 2 diabetes
  • some cancers
  • osteoarthritis
  • depression
  • dementia

Walking also has lots of other plus points, such as:

  • it’s convenient – you can do it whenever it suits you
  • it gets you where you need to go without costing you anything
  • you can travel at your own pace, without having to worry about being held up in traffic
  • you can walk with someone else, so you can socialise at the same time
  • it gives you a way to explore your local area

How can you walk more?

Whether you’re counting steps or you just want to walk more, it’s a good idea to make walking a habit and find ways to add regular walks to your daily routine.

Look at journeys you make, and find ones where you don’t need to use a car or public transport. You could try:

  • walking to the shops
  • walking all or part of the way to work
  • walking to the train station or bus stop
  • taking a walk during your lunch break
  • walking your children to school
  • going for a walk with a friend

If you need something to encourage you to walk or you’re struggling with longer distances, there are lots of things you can try. Listening to music can help you get into a good rhythm, and might even help you walk faster. Or you could listen to a podcast. Keep things interesting by finding different routes to take, so you’re not always walking the same way. You could also find a local walking group – you might make new friends while keeping fit and healthy at the same time.

Person walking dog

Key points

  • walking is a great way to keep healthy
  • adults are advised to do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week
  • while some devices and experts suggest 10,000 steps as ideal, there’s no scientific evidence to back this up
  • there’s lots of evidence for the health benefits of walking and keeping physically active
  • walking as part of your daily routine is an easy way to stay active
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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.

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