10,000 Steps to a Healthier You

Posted on by Catherine Broxon. This entry was posted in Being Active and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

From weight management to cardiovascular health, the benefits of boosting your step count seem to be endless. But logging “enough” steps can be daunting. With a recommended number of 10,000 steps per day for adults — totaling about 5 miles depending on stride length — you might be wondering how it’s even possible to incorporate this goal into your daily life. The truth is that 10,000 steps per day is not a magic number to achieving all of your fitness goals. Any increase is an improvement, and different organizations have different recommendations. Let’s take a closer look at the topic.

Why 10,000?

In general, we are not active enough. The average adult gets anywhere from 900 to 3,000 steps a day, meaning we’re sedentary for the vast majority of our daily lives. The Surgeon General suggests that to be physically fit, adults should add 30 minutes of exercise on top of their customary daily activities, but that is not enough to lose weight or maintain a goal weight. The Center for Disease Control recommends 150 minutes of physical activity a week (about 7,000 to 8,000 steps a day).

So how did 10,000 catch on? A popular pedometer created in Japan in the 1960s was called the “manpo-kei,” which translates to “10,000 steps meter.” The idea of 10,000 steps gained traction at the time and has become popular again today because of the influx of fitness trackers on the market. You will meet both the Surgeon General and the Center for Disease Control guidelines by getting 10,000 steps a day, so why not aim for this goal?

Working Toward a Goal

Chances are you may not be getting anywhere close to 10,000 right now, and that’s okay. To increase physical fitness, any amount of activity beyond what you are currently doing will be beneficial. If you currently walk 2,500 steps a day, you won’t get to 10,000 overnight. There is no one-size-fits-all prescription to fitness, so set weekly goals to stay motivated. Start by tracking your steps every day for a week; the next week, add 500 steps a day. If you took about 3,000 steps a day the first week, aim for 3,500 steps a day the next week. Add 500 steps daily each week until you get to the 10,000 mark.

Counting Steps

Activity trackers like FitBit and Jawbone seem to be all the craze right now. These devices do much more than count steps, like tracking sleep, heart rate, distance, calories, and more. If you’re just interested in steps, you can do so without breaking the bank: a basic pedometer will allow you to count your steps while keeping it simple. These clip-on devices count steps for walking, running, and stairclimbing and start at only $20. There are also basic versions of activity trackers that range from $50 to $100 that allow you to focus on your health beyond movement.

How to Add Steps

We know that it is easier for some than others to reach a step goal. For example, as a student and employee at UW, I can walk to class and work every day. Many people have a commute that does not allow the luxury of skipping traffic and walking so they need to be a little more creative to add steps into their daily count.

The way you will see the most difference in your daily step count is by limiting the amount of time you are sedentary during the day. Park your car farther from the office, take the stairs instead of the elevator, schedule a walking meeting, or grab coffee from the location that’s a little bit more a walk. If 10,000 steps equals 5 miles, and you’re already at 5,000 steps by the time you get home, take some time to go on a walk or jog around the neighborhood.


Sticking to a fitness program is always easier with friends to help keep you accountable. Join the network of UW faculty and staff devoted to fitness on our Whole U Being Active Facebook page. If you have a FitBit, make sure to connect with other fit Huskies on the UW and Whole U community pages and engage in a little healthy competition.

Getting 10,000 steps a day is not the only component to a healthy lifestyle, but increasing your movement every day is always a good thing. Let’s get moving!