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

by Millie

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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

Most people believe that the magic number of 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 100,000 steps are 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?

person taking 10,000 steps for weight loss
Research on 10K steps a day is mixed

Research on 10,000 Steps a Day

The research on 10K steps a day for weight loss is mixed. But it appears there is no need to walk 10,000 steps a day.

One study found that “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 not 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 improved with more steps before leveling 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.

A new study at Brigham Young University investigated whether increased steps, over 10,000 a day, would minimize weight gain and fat gain in college freshmen students. The researchers wanted to see if the higher daily step count prevent the freshmen 10.

In spite of taking as many as 15,000 steps daily, study participants gained around 3.5 pounds, similar to the average weight gain of first-year college students. The lead author Bruce Bailey, professor of exercise science concluded that tracking steps might increase physical activity but it will not maintain weight or prevent weight gain.

This step-counting experiment is a great reminder that weight loss programs must include more than counting steps and exercise goals. You have to change your diet, eat healthy nutritious foods, avoid junk food, and have a calorie deficit.

Also read Best 5 Foods for Permanent Weight Loss

person walking for weight loss
You need a calorie deficit to lose weight

Calorie Deficit

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

Can you burn 500 calories simply by getting 10,000 daily steps? Maybe. The answer is maybe since we all have different metabolism rates. Your metabolism rate depends on several factors including your age, gender, muscle to fat ratio, activity levels, and hormones.

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. The good news is that walking is a great daily activity and has a number of health benefits. 

You can track how far you walked, how long you walked, or minutes of exercise. Or you can also simply count your steps. Counting your steps is a very easy 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.

However, walking or getting more steps is not the only way effective way to get more physically active. For instance, other types of aerobic exercise like cycling and swimming will help you lose weight, increase your calorie burn and help you adopt a healthy lifestyle.

Also read 6 Best Exercises for Overweight Women for Weight Loss

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.

person standing on walking path to see is 10,000 steps a day good for weight loss
Walking and any type of exercise will help you lose weight

Cardiovascular Exercise

Depending on your weight loss and 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 exercise if your goal is to lose weight or avoid weight gain. Going for a daily walk or having a step goal is a great way to improve your fitness level and help you lose weight. 

So is 10,000 steps a day good for weight loss?

person walking outdoors
Walk at least 7,500 steps daily for weight loss

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

There are many dangers of sitting too much and living a sedentary lifestyle. The good news is that walking is a great daily activity and has a number of health benefits.  According to the Mayo Clinic, the benefits of walking include:

  • Maintain a healthy weight and lose body fat
  • Prevent or manage various conditions, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, cancer, and type 2 diabetes
  • Improve cardiovascular fitness
  • Strengthen your bones and muscles
  • Improve muscle endurance
  • Increase energy levels
  • Improve your mood, cognition, memory, and sleep
  • Improve your balance and coordination
  • Strengthen the immune system
  • Reduce stress and tension

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

Also read 30 Day Step Challenge for Overweight Beginners

Most importantly, you must have a calorie deficit to lose weight. A successful weight loss program must include healthy food and more physical activity. For exercise, you can choose to do what you like best. Brisk walking, counting steps, dancing, swimming, cycling, or any form of exercise, whatever it takes to get you moving.

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Cathers June 14, 2020 -

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

Millie June 14, 2020 -

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.

Erin June 14, 2020 -

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.

Millie June 14, 2020 -

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

Surabhi June 17, 2020 -

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

Millie June 17, 2020 -

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

Kathleen Wonders June 14, 2020 -

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!

Millie June 14, 2020 -

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

Sue June 17, 2020 -

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!

Millie June 17, 2020 -

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.

Jessica June 17, 2020 -

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

Millie June 18, 2020 -

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

Rachel June 18, 2020 -

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!

Millie June 18, 2020 -

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.

Millie June 18, 2020 -

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.

Conchetta Jones June 18, 2020 -

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.

Millie June 18, 2020 -

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.

jimmy clare June 18, 2020 -

I love counting steps as well.

Millie June 19, 2020 -

Great! Thanks for stopping by!

Carolyn June 18, 2020 -

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!

Millie June 18, 2020 -

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.

Maria June 18, 2020 -

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!

Millie June 19, 2020 -

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.

Angelika June 18, 2020 -

Great info!

Millie June 19, 2020 -

Thanks! Much appreciated!

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

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