How Many Steps Do We Need?

August 27, 2021
New studies on walking call into question the need for 10,000 steps.

Stepping Up?

Do you really need 10,000 steps a day to stay healthy?
New research won't deter you from walking more, but may shed better light on its benefit.
Here's what we know and why it matters.

New Research:

  • An international group of scientists analyzed evidence from 15 studies which looked at the impact daily walking has on mortality in adults ages 18 and older.
  • This included reviewing data from nearly 50,000 people across four continents.
  • Findings: A significantly lower risk of death in the groups who took more steps; however, for adults 60 and older, the decreased risk for premature death leveled off at about 6,000-8,000 steps per day — rather than the "oft-repeated" 10,000 steps.
"The major takeaway is there's a lot of evidence suggesting that moving even a little more is beneficial, particularly for those who are doing very little activity."

Physical activity epidemiologist Amanda Paluch, University of Massachusetts Amherst, on the results of her team's new analysis: "More steps per day are better for your health. And the benefit in terms of mortality risk levels off around 6,000 to 8,000 (steps) for older adults and 8,000 to 10,000 (steps) for younger adults."

Is 8,000 The New 10,000?

  • A 2020 study measured study results from nearly 5,000 middle-aged people & found that 10,000 steps/day is not a definitive component to longevity. It concluded that people who walk around 8,000 steps/day were half as likely to die prematurely than those who walk around 4,000 steps/day.

  • Another study (focused on older women) observed that "mortality rates progressively decreased" as people got more steps, but the benefits level out at around 7,500 steps/day.

Something To Consider:

  • A 2017 study led by American Cancer Society researchers "found that all levels of walking, even levels below the recommended guidelines [of 2.5 hours/week], were associated with lower mortality risk."

  • Walking is the most common form of exercise in the U.S. and has been associated with lower risk of colon cancer, breast cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

  • In general, research suggests: the speed of your walk isn't a factor. Simply moving matters most!

Walking 10,000 steps a day is largely rooted in marketing rather than science. The popular "step goal" originates from Japan, when a clock maker mass-produced a pedometer in hopes of profiting from the fresh interest in fitness following the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. The pedometer's name translates to "10,000-steps meter" in English. This branding ultimately led to the popular notion that 10,000 steps per day is the key to health.

NYT: Do We Really Need to Take 10,000 Steps a Day for Our Health?

Longevity: Tips for getting your steps in based on habits from the world's longest-lived people

Meta-analysis of 15 studies reports new findings on how many daily walking steps needed for longevity benefit (ScienceDaily)

by Jenna Lee,