Do You Really Need 10,000 Steps a Day?

We crack the code behind this walking equation.
Published March 29, 2022

Ever had a friend say “I gotta get my steps in”? Tracking daily steps on a wearable fitness tracker or smartphone app has become commonplace, with most people aiming for 10,000 per day. But do we really need to hit that 10K?

DJ Mazzoni, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and the medical reviewer at Illuminate Health, says 10,000 steps a day is a useful goal, but any step count in that range is healthy.

“The general guideline for 10,000 steps a day actually came from the marketing department of a Japanese wearables device which tracked steps, rather than from any medical institution,” he says.

“10,000 steps per day is a good goal, but many of the same health benefits will be achieved at 8,600 steps per day or 11,200 steps per day. The general guidance to walk more is good guidance, but people shouldn’t feel a need to obsess over the specific step count, because there isn’t medical research suggesting that 10K steps per day is significantly more effective than 9K steps per day.”

Mazzoni adds, “We know from medical research that most people in developed countries walk far less than our ancestors, and that walking more is generally associated with positive health outcomes like reduced anxiety, increased longevity and better sleep.”

If you enjoy tracking your steps, you can use it as a motivational tool to get yourself up and moving throughout the day. Try challenging yourself to find movement opportunities such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, going for a walk on your lunchbreak, or getting off the bus a stop early and walking the rest of the way to your destination.

There are also some non-step-related guidelines that you can follow to ensure you’re getting enough physical activity in your day. For example, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada recommends adults get 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous aerobic activity a week in sessions of 10 minutes or more, while Canadian government guidelines suggest getting 2.5 hours a week of physical activity.