Regular walking offers numerous advantages and health benefits.
It’s a simple and economical way to stay active. Consistently taking enough steps can help enhance mental health, support weight control, and bolster brain and bone health, ultimately elevating overall well-being.
Lately, the goal of walking 10,000 steps daily has gained traction as a means to encourage regular exercise.
However, you might question why the 10,000-step benchmark is suggested and if it aligns with your fitness aspirations.
This piece delves into the rationale behind step recommendations and the caloric impact of 10,000 steps.
Why does taking 10,000 steps matter?
For many, 10,000 steps roughly translate to about 5 miles (8.05 kilometers).
This 10,000-step target originated from a slogan by Japanese walking clubs in the 1960s.
Moreover, recent studies affirm that taking 10,000 steps daily benefits weight loss and overall well-being.
In research involving 35 adults with a BMI between 31.7 and 44.9, they were given diet advice and slowly upped their steps to 10,000 a day. After six months, there was a notable decrease in their BMI by 3.7%.
Other body measurements improved as well.
That said, this study did not differentiate the effects of dietary counseling from those of walking. Therefore, it’s impossible to attribute the BMI decrease to walking alone.
Summary: Taking 10,000 steps daily is not an official health recommendation, but it has been shown to benefit weight loss and overall health.
How many calories does taking 10,000 steps burn?
Perhaps surprisingly, measuring precisely how many calories you burn by taking 10,000 steps is not simple.
In fact, each person likely burns a different number of calories every time they take those steps because the number of calories you burn through physical activity is affected by many factors.
It has long been believed that body size and weight are one of the main factors affecting how many calories you burn during physical activity.
Because it takes more energy to move a larger body than it does to move a more petite body, the theory is that more calories are burned during the movement of a larger body.
However, emerging research suggests that after adjusting for body weight, the number of calories burned through physical activity in people with a higher body weight might not be higher.
Therefore, more research is needed to determine how weight affects the number of calories burned while taking steps.
Pace and terrain
Other factors influencing how many calories you burn by taking 10,000 steps are how quickly you move and on what type of surface.
For example, if you’re walking briskly uphill at a pace of 5 miles (8 kilometers) per hour, you could burn more than 7 calories per minute.
On the other hand, if you’re strolling downhill at a rate of 3–4 miles (5–6 kilometers) per hour, you might be burning between 3.5 and 7 calories per minute.
A study in young adults found that walking 10,000 steps at a pace of 4 miles (6 kilometers) per hour would burn an average of 153 calories more than walking the same distance at 2 miles (3 kilometers) per hour.
Genetics is An often overlooked factor contributing to how many calories you burn.
One study measured the calories burned during physical activity in 8 sets of twins for 2 weeks. It concluded that genetic differences were responsible for as much as 72% of the variance in calories burned during physical activity in daily life.
Plus, a study in rats found that constantly active and high-capacity runners transmitted more heat in their muscles during physical activity, leading to more calories burned, compared with low-capacity runners that were less active.
Still, some of the research on this topic is older, and more current studies are needed to understand how genetics influence how many calories you burn.
Summary: The number of calories you burn by taking 10,000 steps is likely affected by factors like weight, genetics, and the pace and terrain on which you walk.
How to estimate calories burned
One of the best ways to calculate how many calories you burn by taking 10,000 steps is to use an equation that considers your:
- exercise intensity
- duration of exercise
A simple equation that considers these factors that you can use to calculate your calories burned while walking — and for other exercises — is:
- calories burned per minute = 0.0175 x Metabolic Equivalent of Task (MET) x weight in kilograms
To use this equation, you will need to:
1. Determine the MET of your activity
MET stands for the Metabolic Equivalent of Task. A MET represents the rate at which you burn calories while engaging in a particular physical activity. Different activities at different intensities have their own MET equivalent.
An average MET equivalent for walking ranges from 2.0 to 10.0, depending on speed and terrain.
2. Calculate your weight in kilograms
If you’re used to calculating your weight in pounds, it’s easy to convert your number to kilograms.
Simply divide your weight in pounds by 2.2:
weight in pounds / 2.2 = weight in kilograms
3. Take note of how many minutes taking 10,000 steps took
Since this equation calculates calories burned per minute, you need to multiply the result by the total number of minutes it took you to take the 10,000 steps to determine the total calories you burned.
For example, if it took you 1.5 hours (90 minutes) to take 10,000 steps, your final equation would look like this:
calories burned = 0.0175 x MET x weight in kilograms x 90 (minutes)
4. Plug your data into the equation.
Once you have determined your MET, weight in kilograms, and the total number of minutes it took you to take 10,000 steps, you can plug your data into the equation and complete your estimate.
Here are a few examples of how the calories you burn could vary for different body weights and step intensities. In these examples, it’s assumed that each person walked for 1 full hour (60 minutes) regardless of the speed.
Here is an example of how many calories you burn when walking for 1 full hour (60 minutes) with a body weight of 190 pounds (86 kg):
- 2.0 mph (3.2 kph)/2.8 METs: 253 calories
- 3.0 mph (4.8 kph)/4.3 METs: 388 calories
- 4.0 mph (6.4 kph)/5.0 METs: 451 calories
- 5.0 mph (8 kph)/8.3 METs: 749 calories
Summary: You can easily estimate the number of calories you burn by taking 10,000 steps with a simple equation that considers your weight, walking speed and intensity, and the time it took you to walk 10,000 steps.
Will taking 10,000 steps help you reach your fitness goals?
Overall, taking 10,000 steps each day appears to be one way to improve overall health and wellness.
Research conducted on walking programs suggests that it’s a safe and effective exercise that may aid weight loss and improve overall health.
Still, taking 10,000 steps daily may not be suitable for everyone, for example, because of a lack of time or joint problems. That said, even walking fewer than 10,000 steps each day has been shown to have benefits.
One study in women found that a 12-week walking program in which participants walked 50–70 minutes on 3 days a week could reduce abdominal obesity and improve blood markers of insulin resistance.
Current recommendations suggest walking for at least 30 minutes at least 5 days a week. Taking 10,000 steps a day is one way to meet that goal.
Summary: Walking 10,000 steps daily could help you meet your weekly physical activity recommendations. However, taking any number of steps each day is still more beneficial to your health than taking none at all.
Aiming for 10,000 steps daily can help achieve the advised 30 minutes of exercise at least five times a week.
However, hitting 10,000 steps daily might not be feasible for everyone, and even a lesser count can benefit your health.
The calories burned from 10,000 steps differ among individuals and can even change daily due to factors such as body weight, genetics, and the pace of walking.
To gauge the calories you’ve burned, use a formula that factors in your weight, walking intensity, and the duration taken to hit the 10,000-step mark.
Ultimately, consistent walking can provide numerous health perks, regardless of whether you reach 10,000 steps or not.
Suggested read: How walking can help you lose weight and belly fat