Why Counting Steps Matters (Plus, How to Set the Right Daily Step Goal for You)

by | Updated: September 25th, 2019 | Read time: 3 minutes

For years, experts have recommended getting 10,000 steps per day for optimal health. However, recent studies show that 10K may not be the actual magic number. (This is good news if you’re just starting to count steps, thinking, “How can I possibly squeeze in that many every day?”).

Leg and Sneaker View of Person Walking Thousands of Steps per Day to Reach Daily Step Goal | Vitacost.com.blog

Why step count matters

The number of steps you take in a day matters for many reasons, well beyond helping you to maintain a healthy weight. Additional benefits of staying active including

  • Strengthening your lungs
  • Promoting heart health
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Boosting energy
  • Strengthening bones
  • Preventing muscle atrophy
  • Promoting healthy mood
  • Burning calories

How many steps per day do we really need?

New studies reveal that walking 4,400 steps per day is beneficial to your health, and walking up to 7,500 steps per day increases health benefits. But benefits appear to level off after 7,500 steps. Creating a step goal higher than that would then depend on your fitness goals.

Setting your daily step goal

General good health

If your goal is to increase or maintain good general health, including increased heart and lung health, stronger bones, reduced risk of heart disease and/or management of blood pressure and diabetes, then you should aim for 4,400 steps per day. This is also a good number to start with if you are at a somewhat sedentary level.

Weight loss

If you’re looking to improve your fitness level or lose weight, you’ll need to strive for an increased daily step count.

Achieving weight loss requires increasing your heart rate in order to burn fat and calories. Your walk should be at a brisk pace, and consist of 3,000-3,900 steps in 30 minutes. When you add this number to your 4,400 for daily health, your average daily step count should be about 7,500.  Do this five times a week, along with two sessions of some type of strength training per week, and you will be on your way to optimal health!

Is it ever OK to be sedentary?

Of course there are certain times where being sedentary can’t be avoided, such as when you’re sick or injured. However, on a daily basis, being sedentary (walking fewer than 1,500 steps per day) could lead to increased weight gain and put you at risk for heart disease and diabetes.  Relaxing can be beneficial, but minimize sitting. Get up and move around, even on rest days, to get your blood circulating and heart pumping.

Create ways add more steps to your day

Besides the obvious (taking the stairs and parking further away), try adding some of these tips for increasing your step count:

  • Use the bathroom on a different floor.
  • Set your alarm for once an hour to get up from your desk and take a lap around the office.
  • Carry grocery bags in one or two at a time (yes it will take longer, but that’s OK!).
  • Walk around while brushing your teeth or talking on the phone.
  • Take an extra lap or two at the mall or grocery store either before or after shopping.
  • While kids are at activities, take a walk around the field or block.
  • Take an after-dinner walk (it will also help with food digestion).
  • If you use public transportation, get off one stop early (weather permitting).

More trainer tips:

Use a fitness tracker or pedometer to track your daily steps.

Increasing your daily step count is a great way to begin a fitness program.

Walking is easy and free, so no excuses!

Do invest in good quality sneakers and socks.