Did you know the average American only gets halfway to 10,000 steps a day? If you’re struggling to walk more, you’re not alone. Americans walk about 5,000 steps per day – less than the worldwide average. You’re probably already tracking your steps, which means you’re already doing more than most people. Don’t be discouraged if you haven’t hit 10,000 steps yet! By increasing your step goal by 1,000 to 2,000 steps at a time and creating active walking habits, you’ll be crushing the average step count in no time.
We’ll cover how many steps the average American takes and compare to other countries that walk more (and less). We’ll also break down average steps by age, job type and more, plus show how you can build up your step count to beat these averages!
What is the average steps per day (in the US)?
US Average Steps Per Day: About 5,000 Steps
Most studies have found that Americans take around 5,000 steps per day on average.
A 2017 study found that Americans take, on average, 4,774 steps per day. According to Health.com, that’s less than the worldwide average of 4,900. In fact, Americans ranked 30 out of 46 countries studied in terms of steps taken per day.
Another study from 2003 found that Americans took around 5,117 steps per day, which was also lower than in most other countries studied. A 2016 study of participants in office step challenges found an average of 6,886 steps per day, but those participants were trying to walk more as part of the challenge so that number is probably higher than average.
It’s important to note that we’re talking about mostly healthy people. If you’re dealing with an injury or a serious health condition, you may not be able to hit the average step number. That’s ok! Even adding small numbers of steps can make a huge difference in lifespan and reduced risk of death.
Is the 5,000 Step Number Getting All of Their Steps?
This 5,000 steps per day number covers the average American’s entire day. It includes little things like your morning routine, walking to and from your car, potentially eight hours of sitting at a desk at work, and whatever you do to relax in the evenings. Five thousand steps may sound like a big round number but, realistically, it doesn’t actually translate to a very active lifestyle.
As anyone trying to reach a 10,000 step goal will quickly realize, you will probably need to schedule time specifically set for walking to hit that step goal.
Average Steps Per Day (Worldwide)
Worldwide step averages vary widely depending on the country. According to the large Stanford walking study, some countries with high average step counts included:
- China – 6,189
- Japan – 6,010
- Russia – 5,969
- South Korea – 5,755
- UK – 5,444
Unfortunately, not every country in the world was that active. Here are some of the less active countries:
- India – 4,297
- Brazil – 4,289
- South Africa – 4,105
- Saudi Arabia – 3,807
- Indonesia – 3,513
What 5,000 Average Steps Per Day Really Means
5,000 steps on average means that there are many people above and below that number. Your age, job, and other factors influence how many steps you’re likely to take. Interestingly, men averaged more steps than women (about 1,000 per day) and this gap was maintained across age and BMI ranges. Of course, you still have a say in how many steps you take regardless of your situation!
Average Steps Per Day by Age
As we age, we tend to walk less and less. Children and teenagers average between 10,000 steps and 16,000 steps, a number that drops off significantly around the time teens turn 18. If you have kids or grandkids, you know that it’s hard to get them to stop running around. As they get older, they’re more likely to get a car and work or study full time which can decrease their steps. Young adults are more likely to reach or top 10,000 steps because they are still athletic, active, and may not actually have their own cars. Where the average desk-job-holding adult averages more like 4,000 to 6,000 steps per day when exercise is not part of the daily routine.
Average Steps Per Day by Occupation
Your job goes a long way in determining how many steps you’ll take every day. According to Healthline, call center workers average the lowest steps per day at around 6,500 and waiters naturally average the highest at nearly 23,000 steps per day. This makes sense, as waiters and other active workers need to be constantly moving as part of their job. Interestingly, retail workers, farmers, and stay-at-home parents all average around 14,000 per day but for very different reasons.
We should note that steps are not the only measure of activity. Farmers are probably lifting heavy things and doing many other activities even when they’re not taking steps. This is another reason that while your step count is usually a good measure of how active you’re getting, it’s not the only one!
Average Steps Per Day by City
Some cities are more walkable than others. Many older cities tend to be more densely packed, which allows for easier walking to all of the places you need to go. Cities designed around freeways might require driving or taking a bus or subway to get anywhere. Fast Company reported on a Smart Growth America/GW University study looking for the most walkable cities in America.
Most walkable cities:
- Washington DC
- New York
- San Francisco
Least walkable cities:
- Las Vegas
- San Antonio
You probably can’t pick up and move just to walk more, but if you’re in a less-walkable city you may need to work a bit harder to fit walking into your day.
How many steps are there in a minute or a mile?
For a raw measurement, you can also look at how steps translate into time and distance. You can reach 100 steps quite easily with a minute of brisk walking. Most people get a bit over 2,000 steps per mile, which takes about 20 solid minutes of brisk walking.
Even if 5,000 steps per day is average, that’s not a lot of steps when you think about it. 5,000 steps adds up to about 2.5 miles or less than an hour of activity at a normal walking pace. Even adding 1 extra mile per day can make a difference in terms of calories burned and physical health benefits. Adding a little over 2 miles a day would get the average American up to 10,000 steps. Here are a few tips to add that extra mile or 2,000 steps.
How Can I Hit 10,000 Average Daily Steps or More?
So what does all this mean for you? If your current step number is below average, that just means there’s plenty of room for improvement. Your job and routine probably aren’t conducive to a ton of walking right now, but you can improve on that. And if you’re above the average, pat yourself on the back and still resolve to get stronger.
For most healthy people, 5,000 steps per day are not enough activity to reach your health and fitness goals. Even if you’re average or slightly above average, we think Pacer can help to get you more active.
You don’t need to be an athlete to get that extra 5,000 steps or so in a single walk. You just need to walk for an hour or so. You‘ll burn a few hundred calories and enjoy some amazing health benefits.
If you’re just starting out or if you’re pressed for time, break your activity time up into several smaller walks. Short walks can have the same health benefits as long walks, just as long as you get up to a brisk pace. Walking may not come as naturally to adults as it did when you were younger, but with some work your walk can be a fun part of your daily routine.
Boost Your Step Count if You’re Below Average
Easy Step-Stacking Techniques:
- Take a brisk walk around the building right before or after lunch
- Walk to the nearest lunch place each day
- Take the stairs at work
- Walk your dog around the block mornings and evenings
- Teach your child to ride a bike
- Play a few rounds of tennis
- Pace while you talk on the phone
- Walk in place while watching TV or during commercials.
Easy Endurance Building Techniques
- Walk for an extra 5 minutes every day
- Walk an extra two blocks of the neighborhood every day
- Take up spinning or swimming as a hobby
- Take a brisk morning walk before work
- Join or form a walking club to chat and walk
- Listen to an interesting podcast or a new audiobook so you forget that you’re walking
These tips are only the tip of the step-building iceberg. There are literally hundreds of different ways to build up your endurance and casually increase the number of steps you take in a day to reach your 10,000 goals. For many people, successfully building a routine of walking and exercise means that you might even be surprised when you finally hit that number. Because you won’t even be feeling the burn.
If you haven’t downloaded the Pacer app yet, download Pacer for free (on mobile)! You can also check out our website (mobile or desktop) or follow our blog for more great walking and healthy lifestyle tips.