Is 10,000 Steps a Day Good for Weight Loss?

by Millie
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Last Updated on January 4, 2021 by Millie

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have heard that we all should aim to walk 10,000 steps a day. If you are on a weight loss journey, like me, I am sure you are wondering is 10,000 steps a day good for weight loss. 

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Before we continue, I feel that it is necessary to talk about the origin of where the 10K steps a day recommendation came from to help you get a better understanding of this topic.

Origin of 10,000 steps a Day

I think most people seem to think that walking 10,000 steps a day started with the medical profession or health and fitness research. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

In fact, in 1964 a Japanese company launched a pedometer called Manpo-Kei which translates to 10,000 steps. The device took off in Japan and now fast forward to more recent times and it seems like 10,000 steps is the gold standard of health and fitness. 

Now there are so many of us with smartwatches or apps on our phones who are counting steps daily and hope to reach that magical number of 10,00 a day.

Basically a marketing gimmick evolved into a health and fitness recommendation. In some ways, it continues to be a marketing tool with brands like Fitbit and many personal trainers. But is 10,000 steps a day good for weight loss?

Calorie Deficit

To lose weight, you must have a calorie deficit. This means that you must burn more calories than you eat. One pound is equivalent to 3,500 calories. Therefore, to lose one pound a week/7 days you should have a calorie deficit of 500 calories a day.

This means, for example, that if you consume 1,500 calories today you should burn 2,000 calories by the end of the day to lose one pound this week. Can you burn 500 calories simply by getting 10,000 steps a day? Maybe.

The answer is maybe since we all have a different metabolism rate. Your metabolism rate depends on several factors including your age, gender, muscle to fat ratio, your physical activity, and hormones. 

On Saturday, for instance,  I walked for 68 minutes and burned 563 calories according to my Fitbit. (Read why I think Fitbit is one of the best tools for weight loss). So as long as I had at least a 500 calorie deficit I am on the right track.

Physically Active

To lose weight you basically have to eat less and move more. So if you are a sedentary, couch potato moving more will help you burn more calories and lose weight. And one easy and simple way to move more is to walk more. 

You can track how far you walked or how long you walk. Or you can also simply count your steps.  Counting your steps is a very simple way to see how much or how active you are. And you can see how much better you are getting with even just 100 more steps than yesterday.

When I first starting counting my steps, I got between 2500 – 3000 steps a day! I wasn’t trying to get 10K steps in the first few days, I was simply getting my baseline. 

I had a long way to go and it took me about 4 months to even attempt to walk 10,000 steps a day consistently. I remember that first day very well. It was a Saturday and it honestly felt like I was walking all day. That day I had 114 active minutes or almost two hours! Basically that is how longe I exercise.

However, walking or getting more steps is not the only way to get more physically active. For instance, you can ride a bicycle, stationary bike, or swim. And yes, you will still burn calories and all these activities will help you lose weight.

Furthermore, you may not need 10,000 steps a day. You may be able to meet your daily and weekly weight loss goals with fewer steps.

Cardio

ecg line, a heart made with a red line
You need 300 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio per week to lose weight

Depending on your fitness goals, you may want to include cardiovascular exercise or cardio weekly. Basically cardiovascular exercise is the type of exercise that increases your heart rate and burns fat and calories. It tends to be rhythmic like walking, running, biking, swimming, rowing, skipping, and so on.

Experts recommend that you need at least 300 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio if your goal is to lose weight or avoid regain weight. So walking is a type of cardio and any walking or number of steps you do will help you lose weight. 

If you exercise 6 days a week you will meet this recommendation if you walk for about 50 minutes a day. As you see from my example, I had to walk for more than twice that to get 10,000 steps.

So is 10,000 steps a day good for weight loss? Once again, you may not need to walk 10,000 steps a day to be cardiovascularly fit. You can have fewer steps or even do any other type of cardio.

Research on 10,000 Steps a Day

As you read earlier, the 10,000 steps a day standard was originally a marketing gimmick. But does the research back this up?

One study found that there is “some benefit can come from even just 7,500 steps. But (there is always a but), to prevent weight gain “no amount of steps alone will do the trick.” In other words, simply getting more steps and no changing your diet is not enough.

Another study at Harvard University found that women who averaged 4,400 steps daily reduced their mortality rate by 41%. The mortality rate increased with more steps before leveled off at 7,500.

The Harvard researchers reported that the average American walks 4,000- 5,000 steps a day. And their recommendation is to aim to walk 2,000 more steps than your baseline.

Therefore, depending on your goals 7,500 or fewer steps daily may meet your health and fitness goals.

Why I like Counting Steps

a fitness tracker on top of a cell phone to count your steps
Use a fitness tracker to count your steps

I don’t feel like I need to get a minimum of 10,00 steps a day. I also do other types of cardio – riding a stationary bike, water aerobics, strength training,

However, in spite of the research, here is why I still like counting my steps: 

  • It is easy to do. It’s a lot easier to count steps than perhaps counting calories burned.
  • It’s easy to progress. You can easily and quickly progress from 2,500 steps to whatever your goal may be.
  • You can do it almost anywhere. You can get up and walk in way more places and situations than you can imagine.
  • It’s motivating. Sometimes I walk a few extra steps just to get to a round number.
  • You can have friendly competitions with family and friends and help each other to be more active.
  • It’s easy to become more active

Want to count your steps with a Fitbit? This is the one I have:

How I get extra steps

If you are interested in counting your steps. You can use a Fitbit, Apple watch, and other smartwatches and fitness trackers. There are also many apps that you can have on your mobile phone.

  • I pace while I’m on the phone. In fact, sometimes I call one of my chatty sisters or friend when I want to talk and walk.
  • I march in place for an hour while I watch the news
  • I walk or march in place during TV commercial breaks
  • I march in place when I’m on social media
  • I walk while cooking
  • I always go to the furthest washroom. If you are also drinking more water, you will probably be going to to the washroom more often
  • I park further away
  • I walk or pace on the platform while waiting for the train
  • I get on or get off the bus at stop before or after my regular stop
  • I walk on my lunch and breaks.
  • I try to get at least 250 steps most hours
  • Walk the dog more often
  • Vacuum the house twice a week

Is walking 10,000 steps daily good for weight loss?

a walking trail in the countryside
Walk at least 7,500 steps daily for weight loss

Is walking 10,000 steps daily good for weight loss? The answer is walking is good for weight loss. Getting more steps is also good for weight loss. But you probably only need to aim for 7,500 steps daily.  If you need a little motivation to begin consider taking the 30 Day Step Challenge for Overweight Beginners.

However, you must have a calorie deficit to lose weight. The bottom line is that we are all different and have a different base or starting point. Therefore your diet is important (here is what I ate to lose 80 pounds). 

For exercise, you can choose to do what you like best. Walk, count steps, dance, swim, cycle, or whatever it takes to get you moving.

Do you count your steps daily? Do you try to get 10,000 steps a day? Or what do you do for exercise?

Is 10,000 Steps a Day Good for Weight Loss?
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26 comments

Cathers June 14, 2020 - 6:46 am

Some good points here! I wear my fitbit when I do exercise as a way to track it or if I’m out for a walk. I love using it to track exercise as a way to keep myself motivated

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Millie June 14, 2020 - 1:48 pm

Hi Cathers, Fitbit is great for exercising and really does keep you motivated. I love that I can actually see how much calories I burn.

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Erin June 14, 2020 - 7:18 am

Great post. I currently go for walks or jogs every day. It has also been a great stress reliever for me and something I look forward to each day.

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Millie June 14, 2020 - 1:51 pm

Hi Erin, Wow, I have so much respect for runners! Keep it up!

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Surabhi June 17, 2020 - 7:37 am

Agree to it all. I love wearing my Fitbit. It helps me track the no of steps and also helps in motivating. I love I’m able to achieve my target

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Millie June 17, 2020 - 1:26 pm

Hi Surabhi. I also love my Fitbit. I am so glad that you are using it to achieve your goals.

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Kathleen Wonders June 14, 2020 - 11:38 am

Love this post! My favorite part was when you listed out the ways you can add to your steps, like marching while watching a show or pacing when talking on the phone! Perfect ways to incorporate movement while working or taking a break! 😀 Thanks for sharing!

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Millie June 14, 2020 - 1:54 pm

Thanks, Kathleen, I really glad that you love the post! Thanks for stopping by!

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Sue June 17, 2020 - 1:15 pm

This was so hard when I got my first Fitbit! 10K steps seemed like a lot. Now, I’ve retired 2 Fitbits and graduated to an Apple Watch but the principles stay the same. I feel like I’ve been way too lazy if I don’t get my steps in!

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Millie June 17, 2020 - 1:29 pm

hi Sue, I know how you feel. For many of us, 10,000 is too much of a stretch, But you can try to get 7,500 is 10,000 steps is too hard for you.

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Jessica June 17, 2020 - 11:15 pm

This was really interesting girl! Thank you for sharing!!

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Millie June 18, 2020 - 2:10 pm

Hi Jessica, I’m glad that you found the information interesting. Thanks for stopping by.

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Rachel June 18, 2020 - 6:18 am

Great post! I actually like that my Garmin adjust my step goal everyday. When it sees I’m being more active, it goes higher than 10,000. With out my runs is really is hard to get the steps in, but walking helps!! We try to walk on my “off days” from running! Great tips!

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Millie June 18, 2020 - 2:06 pm

Bi Rachel, Thanks. I used to have a Garmin as well. I think all of these devices should adjust to each person’s activity level.

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Millie June 18, 2020 - 2:10 pm

Hi Rachel, Thanks. I used to have a Garmin as well. I think all of these devices should adjust to each person’s activity level.

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Conchetta Jones June 18, 2020 - 8:25 am

This was great information. I have been adding more steps daily. I have only reached 10,000 once this year so far. And that is because of an event for my job.

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Millie June 18, 2020 - 2:04 pm

Hi Conchetta, I am not surprised that you have only been able to get 10,000 steps once this year. It is way too difficult for the average person to get. But now you know that science tells us that you only need to get 7,500 steps.

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jimmy clare June 18, 2020 - 8:27 am

I love counting steps as well.

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Millie June 19, 2020 - 12:29 am

Great! Thanks for stopping by!

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Carolyn June 18, 2020 - 9:14 am

I am so fascinated by this research! I of course had heard of the 10,000 steps-a-day goal many times, but I never thought of it’s origins. I’ve been counting my steps for a few years now, and I’ve always been surprised at how much you had to walk to get 10,000 steps in a day (I used to be a dog walker, and I still had trouble getting that many steps). It’s so interesting to learn that you probably only need 7500 for weight loss. I’m definitely going to try to push my numbers up…it’s just hard during quarantine (ugh). Great post!

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Millie June 18, 2020 - 2:01 pm

Hi Carolyn, I can’t believe that even as a dog walker it was still hard to get 10,000 steps a day. This just shows how unrealistic it is to get 10,000 steps. But try aiming for 7,500. It is definitely more doable.

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Maria June 18, 2020 - 5:45 pm

Cool post! Normally I reach my 10.000 steps easily when going to work and my daily dose of exercise, but with the pandemic my target is like 2.500 steps now LOL! will try some of your tips to reach at least 5.000!

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Millie June 19, 2020 - 7:59 pm

Hi Maria, Unfortunately, the lockdown has had a negative effect on most of us. But it will end soon and hopefully, you will go back to getting 10,000 more steps a day.

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Angelika June 18, 2020 - 6:30 pm

Great info!

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Millie June 19, 2020 - 12:29 am

Thanks! Much appreciated!

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Fitbit: One of the Best Tools for Weight Loss - Healthier Millie July 14, 2020 - 1:20 am

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