How Many Steps a Day Do You Really Need for Optimal Health?

Published on September 27, 2021

Man checking his step count on a tracker while jogging down a tree-lined path

By now, you’ve likely heard that getting your steps in every day is one of the keys to a healthy lifestyle. But just how many steps should we take a day?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends aiming for a goal of 10,000 steps a day. By contrast, most Americans only take 3,000 to 4,000 steps throughout the day.

Adding more brisk walks to your routine comes with a bevy of proven benefits including improved cardiovascular health, a clearer mind and even a boosted mood. It may also lead to a longer life. When researchers studied the world’s “blue zones,” or areas with unusually high numbers of centenarians, they found that these communities were highly walkable, and the residents made daily walks a part of their routines.

How Many Steps Should We Take a Day?

Danielle Milner, a certified personal trainer and strength and conditioning specialist, says she uses the 10,000-step marker as a good general rule of thumb for her clients. However, she notes that rather than focusing on reaching a specific number each day, it’s more beneficial to prioritize weaving physical activity and movement into your entire day.

“In terms of step counts, I always tell my clients that instead of trying to do 10,000 steps all at once in the morning, I think to be consistently moving is way more beneficial than just clumping it all together,” Milner says. “Sitting is the new smoking, so even if you have a desk job, try to find little ways to incorporate movement throughout the day. Maybe if you have to do a phone call, do it on a walk or go on a walk before bed because it can help with sleep.”

How Many Steps Should We Take a Day if We’re Sedentary?

Milner says that although the 10,000-step goal can be a helpful metric for people to keep track of their movement, it’s not for everyone. Some people will still benefit from fewer than 10,000 steps, while others may need to walk more to feel their best.  

“For me, I’m very active, I do easily 22,000 to 30,000 steps a day because I’m constantly moving, obviously my job is very active and I don’t sit throughout the day, but it really depends on the person,” she says. “My tips for boosting your step count would be to break it up throughout the day because it can be much easier that way for people with busy schedules.”

In other words, find what works best for you and always listen to your body. While any movement you can incorporate into your daily schedule will benefit your health, obsessing over reaching a certain number of steps each day shouldn’t be your ultimate end goal, and could ultimately be a detriment to your well-being and peace of mind.

Cheers to moving more 🥂! This month we’re toasting to health and fitness and taking care of our bodies for optimal health, well-being and longevity.

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The Author
Mackenzie Patterson is a Toronto-based writer and journalist. She enjoys long walks, iced coffee on tap, and discovering all the latest and greatest health and wellness trends.