Do You REALLY Need to Walk 10,000 Steps Per Day?


There have been a lot of articles recently challenging the idea that we need to walk 10,000 steps per day.

I get, on average, closer to 5,000-6,000 steps per day.

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I also do some sort of resistance training 5 days per week

Does someone who lifts weights still need 10,000 steps per day? How about a person who bikes, swims, or plays a sport?

None of the articles I’ve read on walking gave a good answer on how many steps you need when you are already somewhat active.

I personally wanted to know if I’m walking enough.

I figured others were in the same boat.

In this article, I’m going to cover how many steps per day to aim for based on your other activities.

Before I do that, time for a music video. The music theme for this blog post: Some songs from the 2020s I’m liking so far.

The 10,000 steps per day number started as a marketing tactic.

A clockmaker, after the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, mass-produced a pedometer pushing the idea of getting 10,000 steps per day. The marketing was obviously effective because that number has stuck with us.

Basically, the 10,000 number is totally random.

So how many steps do you need per day?

I found the first part of my answer from an unexpected source.

There’s a meta-analysis study from 2016 examining data from 1 MILLION men and women, looking at how much physical activity can overcome sitting time each day.

Note: I was going to write an entire separate article on this meta-analysis, but it is an important piece of figuring out how many steps per day are ideal.

I sit most of the day.

I expect a lot of people reading this article do as well.

I’ve always suspected that with long enough workouts, you can overcome sitting for most of the day.

According to this analysis, of 1 million people, this is a possibility.

Here’s a chart from the study.

According to this chart, if you sit a lot, you need to perform a lot of physical activity to make it into the healthy green range (would put you in the upper right-hand corner of the chart).

This is GOOD news.

With enough physical activity, you can overcome sitting for most of the day.

How does this fit in with “steps per day”?

Walking is a moderate activity.

You could simply walk a ton to make up for sitting all day, which would be a lot of steps.

A better solution for overall fitness is to mix walking with more vigorous physical activity.

This will save you time as well.

That meta-analysis of 1 million people led me to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.

This meta-analysis shaped a large part of these guidelines.

I’m usually skeptical of government guidelines.

But this guideline is entirely evidence-based, and it uses the data from this 1 million-person meta-analysis as well as dozens of other studies.

This is an impressive 118-page document.

They do use really corny stock photos, though.

They should hire me next time.

l want to take some of the recommendations from this document but cut right to the chase…

Here are the physical activity recommendations each week for good health (lower mortality rate, less disease, etc.)

  • 150-300 minutes of MODERATE intensity activity
  • Or 75-150 minutes of VIGOROUS intensity activity

Let’s go back to that sitting time vs activity chart again.

If you sit most of the day, you most likely need to be on the upper end of activity levels.

Let’s go with that.

If you sit for most of the day… your target should be 300 minutes of moderate activity each week, like walking, or 150 minutes of vigorous activity each week, like HIIT… or a combination of the two.

You could walk for 60 minutes each day, Mon-Fri.

Or, you could do a more vigorous activity like running or HIIT for 30 minutes each day, Mon-Fri.

I think a better approach is a mix of the two.

I really like the approach of hitting the 50% target for moderate and 50% for vigorous activity.

*This is close to an ideal mix in opinion…

150 minutes of walking level intensity and 75 minutes of HIIT level intensity each week.

It works out well with so many workout programs.

Gym Routine Example
  • Mon: Weights + 15 min HIIT + 30 min walk
  • Tue: Weights + 30 min walk
  • Wed: Abs + 30 min *Stepmill + 30 min walk
  • Thu: Weights + 30 min walk
  • Fri: Weights + 15 min HIIT + 30 min walk
  • Weekend: Kettlebell Swing Intervals for 15-20 minutes

* The Stepmill is an intense form of cardio, even at walking speeds. It counts as vigorous activity.

Note: Both my Men’s Flagship program and Women’s Flagship program were written several years before these latest guidelines were published but do well at hitting these activity numbers.

The physical activity guideline document also recommends “muscle-strengthening activity” at least 2 days a week.

In the example above, we are doing it 4 days a week.

The activity guidelines don’t count muscle-strengthening activity towards your moderate or vigorous activity minutes.

There is a bit of gray area here…

What if your strength training is done vigorously, like HIIT?

This is where I believe things like CrossFit and kettlebell training come into play.

If you are doing a metabolic conditioning activity like kettlebells, it absolutely fits the definition of vigorous activity intensity.

Same with CrossFit.

As long as rest periods are somewhat short and it causes you to breathe hard, I believe these counts towards your vigorous activity minutes.

Kettlebell Routine Example
  • Mon: 25 min Kettlebell + 30 min walk
  • Wed: 30 min walk
  • Thu: 25 min Kettlebell + 30 min walk
  • Fri: 30 min walk
  • Sat: 25 min Kettlebell + 30 min walk

Note: Visual Impact Kettlebells is our home workout program that does a great job of hitting these numbers.

In this example, the three 25-minute kettlebell workouts cover the 75 minutes of vigorous activity… and the five 30 minute sessions of walking cover the 150 minutes of moderate activity.

If you are someone who has a physically active job?

You could most likely get away with half the minutes of moderate and vigorous activity.

I also want people to know that is doesn’t have to be just walking or official HIIT style training.

Here are examples covered in the guidelines document.

Moderate-Intensity Activities:

Walking briskly (2.5 miles per hour or faster), Recreational swimming, Bicycling slower than 10 miles per hour on level terrain, Tennis (doubles), Active forms of yoga (for example, Vinyasa or power yoga), Ballroom or line dancing, General yard work and home repair work, Exercise classes like water aerobics

Vigorous-Intensity Activities:

Jogging or running, Swimming laps, Tennis (singles), Vigorous dancing, Bicycling faster than 10 miles per hour, Jumping rope, Heavy yard work (digging or shoveling, with heart rate increases), Hiking uphill or with a heavy backpack, High-intensity interval training (HIIT), Exercise classes like vigorous step aerobics or kickboxing

This is just a way to get ideas.

Countless activities would work not listed here.

Trying to hit a specific amount of steps doesn’t look at the big picture.

It’s a bit more complicated than that.

Again, here’s my recommendation…

150 minutes of moderate walking level activity + 75 minutes of HIIT level (or equivalent) activity each week.

30 minutes per day of walking, 5 days per week, works well.

Mix in some HIIT or more intense cardio a few times per week.

Do some form of strength training 2X per week…

And you’re good!

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For 15 years I've helped fashion models get lean for photoshoots. Use my plan to Lose 5-10 pounds of PURE body fat in 14 days.

To me, this is much more feasible than trying to hit 10,000 steps per day.

More enjoyable too.


-Rusty Moore

As a former fitness coach to fashion models, I can teach you how to increase muscle definition without adding size.

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