Everyone should start off with a 10,000-step goal, why? It adds up to about five miles each day for most people, which includes about 30 minutes of daily exercise—satisfying the CDC’s recommendation of at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. Thing is, 10,000 steps per day might not make sense for you. You may need to nab more if you want to lose a certain amount of weight, or take fewer steps if you’re new to fitness or recovering from an injury. Your step goal can vary depending on your needs, and it can also shift over time. Here’s how to set it right for you.
FITNESS GOAL: GENERAL FITNESS GAINS
Your plan: If you’re new to exercise or returning from injury, you’ll want to start slowly to avoid burnout or further injury. Wear a tracker and determine how many steps you take on average each day over the course of a week. That’s your baseline. The Mayo Clinic recommends adding 1000 daily steps each week, so if your baseline is 4000 steps per day, set your goal at 5000 steps each day. Meeting your goal may be as simple as an extra five-minute walk, or even parking a few cars further away at the supermarket, depending on your speed and stride.
FITNESS GOAL: WEIGHT LOSS
Your plan: First, determine how much weight you wish to lose—then, do a little math. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends slow weight loss for lasting results—usually 1/2 pound to one pound per week. Completing an extra 10,000 steps each day typically burns about 2000 to 3500 extra calories each week. One pound of body fat equals 3500 calories, so depending on your weight and workout intensity, you could lose about one pound per week simply by completing an extra 10,000 steps each day.
FITNESS GOAL: HEALTH MAINTENANCE
Your plan: Once you have met your desired goals, you may simply want to maintain your fitness level. The 10,000-step goal could be just right for you—and the benefits of a 30-minute daily stroll are nearly boundless, from slowing mental decline and lowering blood pressure, to improving sleep and relieving depression. One study out of California State University showed that mood lifted in correlation with increased numbers of daily steps, and researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that 30 minutes of walking each day cut stroke risk by a minimum of 20%. Of course, you’ll also burn calories and fat, and if outside, enjoy an extra dose of sunny vitamin D while you’re at it.