How Many Steps a Day Do You Really Need to Take?

James Logie

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Are you reading this on your phone right now?

If you are, you’ve probably seen that your phone can track quite a lot.

If you’re on an iPhone, you have access to the Health app, which is a great way to track things like your steps each day.

You might be a big fan of the Fitbit or other wearable technology to get a good idea of where you are at each day with your fitness.

Over the coming years, I think you’ll see even more growth in the wearable technology department.

We’ve already got things like watches and shoes that can track information, and this will continue to grow.

A big focus on tracking has to do with how many steps a day you’ve taken.

This has caught on pretty well with many people, but you may have wondered exactly how many steps a day you should take and why this is so important?

Step it Up

Today, you really don’t have to be physically fit to get by.

We’re living in cities where you barely have to walk if you don’t want to; we have a drive-through for everything; we have machines that do our heavy lifting, and elevators and escalators taking us floor to floor.

Our ancestors who had to spend days hunting and tracking animals would be rolling in their graves knowing we can drive up to a window and order a burger the size of your head.

We’ve spent a lot of time off our feet and this hasn’t been the healthiest thing.

Why is Staying on Your Feet Important?

Winston Churchill once said, “Never stand up when you can sit down.” Judging by his physique; that might not have been the best advice in the world.

A lot of research has been shared about the damaging effects of sitting as it pertains to your health and waistline.

That sitting can make you sick may seem weird, but when you realize adults are sedentary for 60% of the day — and the average person sits six hours a day — you can see how inactive we really are.

Sitting for an excessive amount of time decreases bone mineral density, plus the excess weight from lack of activity, puts a lot more force on weakening bones.

As far as the weight issue, it’s hard to burn calories when you’re not moving.

Excessive sitting decreases an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase or LPL. LPL can help burn fat and extended sitting turns it off.

How Many Steps a Day Do You Need?

You’ve probably heard that you should aim for 10,000 steps a day. This is a great goal — but why was 10,000 the go-to number?

The thinking behind it was it takes roughly 10,000 steps to burn 500 calories. Over the course of one week, you would have burned 3500 calories taking 10,000 steps a day.

How many calories are in a pound of fat? 3500.

The idea then is 10,000 steps can help achieve slow, gradual weight loss.

Calorie counting, however, is an imperfect science and there are many factors — specifically your diet — that need to be in check to ensure proper weight loss.

Despite this, 10,000 steps is still a good goal to try for each day.

For the average person, it can take around 100 minutes to take 10,000 steps.

This gets broken up through the day, but if you can keep an extended time period of 30 minutes per day going, you’re hitting that sweet spot of how much exercise you need.

How Many Steps Are We Taking Each Day?

The average person is only taking around 1000–3000 steps a day. This is where that technology — either your phone or a Fitbit — lends a hand.

You can see your progress each day and see how close you can get to that 10,000 steps.

If you’re only getting 8–9000 that’s still great and some days you’ll do well over 10,000.

With this rough goal of 10,000 steps a day, you want to aim for spending at least 50 percent of your waking hours on your feet. This is beneficial for optimal health.

So what do you do if you’re well under this 10,000 mark?

Let’s say you’re taking 5000 steps a day. Jumping up to 10,000 will be a little overwhelming.

Your goal now is to add in 500 steps a day, which is around the amount I take chasing my dog when she steals my shoes.

If you’ve been taking 5000 steps a day, try to get to 5500 each day by the end of the week.

The week after, you will aim for 6000 steps each day for that entire week. Keep this additional 500 steps until you’re up to 10,000 a day.

How Can You Add-In More Steps?

Well, you can borrow my dog to get started, but it’s actually not too hard to find places to add steps in. You can start by going for a walk after dinner.

The average person's stride length is around 2.5 feet long, so going for just a one-mile walk uses around 2000 steps. Definitely very doable.

What are a few other ways you can increase steps?

  • Using stairs instead of elevators/escalators
  • Parking farther away from work or when you go shopping
  • Getting up to change the channel (also interrupts extended sitting)
  • Taking a walk on lunch breaks

Step By Step

I think you can see the issues that come from a lack of activity. Even if you do work out every day, we neglect our basic human functioning and spend very little time walking.

An hour workout is great, but if you’re sitting for 10 plus hours, the rest of the day — you can still run into problems.

If you take away anything from this article, I would say remember not to go over two straight hours of sitting.

Make it a point to get up for a minute or two for every 30 minutes you spend sitting down.

Start adding in those steps each day. You’ll find once you add them in, you’ll be more motivated to go further and further.

After a while, the Proclaimers “500 miles” won’t just be an awful 80s throwback song — but your weekly step total…

Photo by Arek Adeoye on Unsplash

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Personal trainer, podcaster, Amazon best-selling author. Writing about some health, a little marketing, and a whole lot of 1980s.

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