How many steps per day should healthy adults walk for real health and fitness?

Most health organizations recommend walking at least 30 minutes per day, but you can get significant health benefits from walking more than that. If your goal is 10,000 steps, you’ll almost certainly want to exceed this recommendation. Getting the recommended amount of walking can reduce your risk of serious health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes and sudden death. Your daily step goal should depend on your job, fitness level, time and other factors. It’s fine for your goal to be set in steps or time – 10k steps or 60 minutes of walking both work well.

We’ll cover the minimum recommended daily walking level – 30 minutes or around 3,500 steps of dedicated walking, plus what you can gain from 60 minutes or a target of 10,000 steps daily.

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Minimum: 30 minutes per day – about 3,500+ steps of dedicated walking

Senior couple walking in a green park
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Almost every major health organization recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate- intensity activity (like brisk walking) per week. That breaks down to 30 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week. This includes the US National Institutes of Health and Dept. of Health and Human Services, UK National Health Service, and the World Health Organization. While getting more active has additional benefits, 30 minutes per day should be your starting point.

How many steps is 30 minutes of walking?

Your steps per mile depend on your height and stride length. At a brisk 3 mph walking speed (4.8 km/h), a 6’0″ person would get about 2,000 steps per mile while a 5’0″ person would get about 2,500 steps per mile. That’s anywhere between 3,000 and 3.750 steps for that 30 minute walk. You can estimate about 3,300-3,500 steps as a good proxy for 30 minutes walking.

Make sure to note that that assumes that you literally take no extra steps during your daily routine. In reality, most people take several thousand steps just going about their daily lives even if they don’t exercise. The average American gets about 5,000 steps per day, and most don’t take 30 minutes to go on a walk. 30 minutes of walking can get you up to 8,000 steps or more per day, especially if you have an active job.

Does it matter how long I walk?

There are some benefits to ensuring that your walks last at least 10 minutes. This allows you to properly warm up and cool down, plus get your heart rate up before the end of your walk. Some health organizations, including the NHS and WHO, recommend that your moderate-intensity exercise consist of at least 10 minutes of walking each time. That said, even 5-minute walks add up over time, and frequent short walks can help to undo the health damage of prolonged sitting. If you’re able to walk, even for 5 minutes, take the opportunity!

Health benefits of 30 minutes of walking

Walking is one of the most beneficial activities you can do. Benefits of walking 30 minutes a day include, according to the WHO, lower risks of heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancers among other things. Walking also benefits your mood and mental health, which means that your daily walks will help you feel great too.

Substantial benefits: 60 minutes per day – about 7,000+ steps of dedicated walking

Fit senior man walking for fitness in a park
Jacob Lund / Shutterstock

The NIH, WHO, NHS and other orgs also note that increasing your walking time to 300 minutes per week (an hour a day, 5 days a week) gives even more benefits. It’s typically stated as “additional health benefits” or “substantial health benefits,” and the orgs don’t necessarily break down benefits by time walked.

In reality, the benefits of walking accrue on a continuum. It’s not the case that 29 minutes of walking gives few benefits but if you hit 30 you magically gain all the benefits of walking. Likewise, as you step up to an hour a day of walking you’ll reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers to an even greater degree. You’ll also be burning a lot more calories, which makes it easier to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight.

How many steps is 60 minutes of walking?

Using the same steps per mile calculation as before, at 3 mph a 6’0″ person takes about 2,000 steps per mile while a 5’0″ person takes about 2,500 steps. That 60 minute walk would cover about 3 miles, giving you between 6,000 and 7,500 steps. You can estimate around 6,600-7,000 to be safe.

By adding an hour a day of walking to their daily lives, most people will already be over 10,000 steps a day. As previously mentioned, the average American gets about 5,000 steps per day. Add an hour of walking on top of that and you’re well over 10,000. That extra hour a day will do wonders for your weight loss or health and fitness goals.

What else can I do to gain more benefits?

In addition to cardio exercise like walking, health organizations recommend some amount of strength training to keep your muscles strong. The WHO, NHS and HHS all recommend healthy adults do some type of strength training twice a week or more. Functional strength is useful in your daily life, and building muscle helps boost your metabolism and maintain muscle mass in older adults.

You can also work to hit that 10,000 steps per day number and/or increase the intensity of your walks. Vigorous-intensity exercise (like running or basketball, for instance), can get you the health benefits of cardio in approximately half the time. That tradeoff comes with much higher impact on your joints, plus a greater recovery time between sessions. By making your walks more intense, you’ll be boosting the benefits you get over regular walking without ramping up the intensity to a runner’s level.

Weight loss & fitness: 10,000 steps per day

Woman speed walking on a track for fitness
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10,000 steps per day is an inspirational, round number but also a target that will often get you the hour a day of walking that you need to achieve substantial health benefits of walking. You can ensure you easily get your 10,000 steps a day, and get additional weight loss and fitness benefits, by committing to take 10,000 steps of dedicated time walking.

How far and how long is 10,000 steps?

A 5’0″ person walks about 4 miles to get 10,000 steps, while a 6’0″ person walks about 5 miles. Again, the tall person goes farther during each step. At a brisk, 3 mph walking pace that would take you anywhere from an hour and 20 minutes to an hour and 40 minutes. An hour and a half is a good rule of thumb for how long you’d need to be active during the entire day to ensure you get your 10,000 steps.

The average American gets around 5,000 steps per day, so in reality you probably don’t need to add an hour and a half in addition to this to hit 5,000 steps. The extra steps will definitely pay off in the form of calories burned and weight lost, however.

Get more intense in the time you have

While taking longer and more frequent walks is usually good, at some point you simply run out of time in the day to easily take a fitness walk. When you start running up against that limit, instead work on making the walks you do take more intense. More intense, calorie-burning forms of fitness walking include walking stairs, walking on an incline, or fast-walking styles like power walking. You can also start working in interval training to turn a 15-minute walk into an intense walking workout.

The faster forms of fitness walking will boost your step count, but even if your steps don’t necessarily increase you can boost your calorie burn and cardio workout by a large amount through fitness walking. That should be your ultimate goal – health and fitness – instead of a number.

Work on an overall active lifestyle

If you’ve hit 10,000 steps and are looking for a challenge, create an overall healthy lifestyle! Make sure that you’re doing some kind of strength or flexibility training several times per week. You don’t need to lift weights to do strength training. A yoga session in the comfort of your own home can get the job done! Work on your healthy eating plan so that you can eat what you like and still maintain a healthy weight.

Also look for ways to work walking into your daily routine. Create an active office, get moving on weekends, and try to spend your leisure time moving.

Even 1,000-2,000 more steps makes a difference!

Senior couple walking for fitness in the park
wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock

If you can’t hit 30 minutes per day due to health problems, a busy schedule, or other issues, just do the best that you can! Studies have shown that even small increases in steps can make a huge difference. One study showed that older women who took 4,400 steps per day had a 41% lower risk of death than those who took just 2,700 steps per day. That’s only 1,700 steps and it made a tremendous difference.

Other research has shown that a single walk a day, or even light activity (like doing housework) can help reduce your risk of death and serious health problems. Don’t push yourself to go to far, too fast. Get a little more active, and you’ll see great results.

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