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Do You Really Need to Walk 10,000 Steps Per Day?

New research shows that every step counts

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The health benefits of walking are well known—as is the old adage that you must walk 10,000 steps every day to achieve them. We wanted to find out how many steps you actually have to take in order to reap the rewards of walking. The answer? Far fewer than you might think.

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Where did the 10,000-steps goal come from?

In 1965, a Japanese company called Yamasa Clock released the Manpo-kei, a pedometer with a name that translates to “10,000 steps meter” in English. Although the name was merely intended to be used as a marketing tool, the concept of 10,000 steps is still synonymous with good health more than 50 years later.

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What are the primary benefits of walking?

Walking is a form of cardiovascular exercise, which means it strengthens your heart, improves blood circulation, and increases your heart rate. Regular walking has been linked to a reduced risk of many health issues, including diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and obesity.

Research has also shown that a regular walking routine can improve mental health by alleviating symptoms of mild depression and insomnia. Walking can even reduce joint pain, help maintain healthy immune function, and improve bone density (in conjunction with resistance and flexibility exercises).

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Does a smaller step count still offer benefits?

You might be surprised to learn that the number of steps needed to glean the rewards of walking is significantly smaller than 10,000 steps. In fact, researchers behind a 2023 study conclude that the number of steps needed to reduce the mortality risk of any disease is only 3,867 steps. Only 2,337 steps per day are needed to reduce the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.

Another recent study found that older women who walked at least 4,400 steps per day had a 41 percent reduction in mortality rates. As extra steps were added, the mortality rates continued to decrease. However, once the number of daily steps surpassed 7,500, these rates leveled off.

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How to make your walks count

Feeling inspired to step up your daily step count? Whether you want to hit 4,000 or 10,000 steps (or somewhere in between), there are endless ways to elevate your walking routine.

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Use a pedometer to make your steps count

Step counters or pedometers are simple yet effective tools that can be used to help reach your fitness goals. If you’re in the beginning stages of your walking journey, take the first week to establish your baseline step count. Once you have a better awareness of how many steps you take per day, you can gradually begin to increase the amount.

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Add more steps as you adjust

The key to building a stronger walking practice by adding more steps? Consistency. Try adding 300 to 500 steps per day, eventually moving up to 2,000 extra steps per day. With each passing week, aim to add more steps until you eventually reach 10,000 (or whatever number you want to achieve). If your goal is to regularly walk 10,000 steps, you can stop there. Otherwise, continue adding steps as your level of fitness and schedule allow!

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Keep up the pace (any pace!)

Whether you prefer a leisurely stroll or a power walk around the neighborhood, the health benefits of walking can be felt at any pace . For optimal protection against hypertension, high cholesterol, and diabetes, work on increasing your walking pace to a moderate-intensity level.

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Sneak in more steps

Get those extra steps in without even thinking about it with these tips:

• Walk instead of driving if your destination is nearby.

• Take the stairs instead of the elevator.

• Pick up your morning coffee in person.

• Bring in your shopping bags over several trips instead of hauling everything indoors in a single trip.

• Go for a walk on your lunchbreak.

• Take a hike!

• Skip the shortcut and take the long way.

• Pace while talking on the phone.

• Have an impromptu dance party in your living room.

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Make walking more enjoyable

Keep these tips for safety and comfort in mind to make your walk a positive experience:

• Invest in a pair of well-fitting running shoes.

• Allow yourself time to warm up.

• Listen to music, a podcast, or an audiobook as you walk.

• Find a walking group! Research shows that walking and socializing can help you stick to a schedule, creates accountability, and boosts motivation.

• Be aware of your surroundings at all times.

• Challenge yourself with soundwalks, labyrinth walks, or Nordic walking.

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