How Many Steps Should I Really Take in a Day?

Walking is an excellent way to get into shape and maintain your health. It’s low impact, requires no special equipment, and can be started safely by almost anyone.

If you’re thinking about starting a walking routine or hoping to improve your overall fitness, you might be wondering how many steps you should aim to walk every day. The answer to this question depends on many factors, such as your age, health, and personal goals.

Ryan Golub, DPM, the board-qualified podiatrist practicing at Phoenix, Arizona-based Arizona Foot Health, explains how to determine how many daily steps you should be taking.

Is 10,000 steps a day the right goal for you?

Like many patients, you might assume you need to aim to take 10,000 daily steps. This is the benchmark automatically set on most pedometer devices.

However, in reality, the 10,000 step benchmark is somewhat arbitrary and was not originally recommended by doctors. According to the BBC, the concept of walking 10,000 steps a day originated as a concept in Japan as part of a popular marketing slogan leading up to the 1964 Olympics.

Most healthy adults can walk 10,000 steps per day without it being detrimental to their health, but recent research from Harvard University shows it might not be necessary to walk that much. The study, which tracked older women, found death rates were lowest in the women who walked at least 7,500 steps. 

The Harvard University study shows 7,500 steps is a good goal for many adults. However, the number of steps you should take also depends on the following factors.

What are your goals?

The number of steps you choose to aim to walk partly depends on your reasons for walking. If your aim is longevity and overall health, walking 7,500 steps might be an excellent objective.

On the other hand, if you’re hoping to lose weight, you could aim to burn more calories by walking additional steps. There’s no research showing walking over 7,500 steps is detrimental to your health, so if you’re otherwise healthy, feel free to up your goal to 10,000 steps — or even higher.

How active are you currently?

Your current activity levels also help determine how many steps you should set as your goal. If you’re already very active and regularly engaging in activities like running, swimming, or cycling, adding additional walking steps to your day probably won’t improve your overall fitness levels.

On the other hand, if you’re mostly sedentary, walking 7,500 steps right away might be too hard on your feet and put you at risk for foot and ankle injuries. If you’re new to exercising, start with a smaller number of steps, and slowly increase them.

How healthy are you and your feet?

When making walking goals, start by looking at your overall level of health and the health of your feet. If you have any underlying foot or ankle conditions, such as bunions, plantar fasciitis, or unexplained pain in your feet or ankles, it’s important to treat them before beginning a walking routine.

Dr. Golub works with patients to treat foot or ankle conditions using interventions such as conservative care and custom orthotics to make walking safe and comfortable for you. He also works with you to develop a walking program and step goal that suits your current lifestyle, health and fitness levels, and desired goals.

To get your foot and ankle health assessed and to get started developing a healthy walking routine that’s right for you, make an appointment with Arizona Foot Health in Phoenix, Arizona, using the online request system or by calling during business hours.

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