How Many Steps Per Day Help With Weight Loss?

With the increase in popularity and widespread use of fitness apps and trackers, most people are already informed on how many steps per day help with weight loss. The magic number of 10,000 steps per day is all over the media, promoted by fitness coaches, celebrities, and recommended by doctors.

Is this number just a fad or does science back up the claim that walking 10,000 steps a day improves your health? Can taking 10,000 steps a day really lead to weight loss?

Let’s take a deeper look at what evidence is there for aiming to take 10,000 steps a day and whether reaching that goal has any benefits.

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How many steps a day are necessary to lose weight?

There is evidence that taking 10,000 steps a day can lead to weight loss.

One study enrolled 35 overweight individuals in a program that required them to walk 10,000 steps per day. Body mass index (BMI), body fat percentage, waist circumference, lean body mass, and mood profile were measured before and after the 12-week study period.

Of the 30 participants who reached the goal of 10,000 steps daily, there was a significant drop in BMI, waist circumference, and body fat percentage, as well as an improvement in mood.¹

Other studies have also supported the value of 10,000 steps per day to achieve weight loss.²

The converse is also true: people who take less than 5,000 steps per day are classified as having sedentary lifestyles and are at increased risk of weight gain and cardiovascular morbidity.³

Easy ways to reach your daily step goal

You can reach your daily step goal as part of a dedicated exercise program. The World Health Organization recommends that adults between the ages of 18 and 64 engage in  150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. Brisk walking could fall into this category.⁴

If you don’t like the idea of a dedicated exercise program or don’t have the time for one, you can use some of the tips below to reach your daily step count without changing your daily life too significantly.

You will need a pedometer or fitness tracker to monitor your step count. Although some of these fitness trackers are very expensive, you don’t need to spend a fortune. There are many effective and cost-efficient pedometers available.

Here are some easy tips to get more steps in:

  • Park a block or two away from work. Even better, walk to and from work if you’re able to.

  • Take the stairs whenever possible, and avoid elevators and escalators.

  • Get a dog or offer to walk a friend/neighbor’s dog on a regular basis.

  • Walk while you’re on the telephone, even if it’s just pacing up and down.

  • Take a 10 to 15 minute walk during your lunch break.

  • Park as far from the grocery store as you can when you go grocery shopping.

Remember that a few extra steps taken frequently during the day all add up to help you reach your 10,000-step goal.

How to keep motivated to reach your step goal

It might be easy to stick to your goal of reaching 10,000 steps a day initially, but your motivation may start to wane as time passes. These five tips for staying motivated have been adapted from the “Stunning Motivation” website.⁵

Apply the two-minute rule

This is a principle proposed by the author James Clear in his book Atomic Habits. It suggests that when you are feeling unmotivated, it’s easier to motivate yourself to do something “just for two minutes” than to try to motivate yourself to do the whole task.

If you can’t face doing a 30-minute walk, tell yourself that you simply need to do a two-minute walk. You may find that once you’re up and walking, you feel energized and motivated to carry on walking. And even if you don’t, two minutes of walking is better than nothing.

Inject the fun factor

When you feel bored, you won’t feel motivated. If you want to get motivated, you must inject the fun factor into the task.⁶

Make walking fun; invite a friend to join you or choose to walk in an environment that makes you happy, whether it’s a forest or a shopping mall. You can also listen to something inspirational or interesting while you walk.

Record and celebrate when you reach your goals

Keep a log of your daily step count, and use it as motivation. You may want to try to set a 10,000-steps-a-day streak (see how long you can keep it going for) or reward yourself when you manage to reach 10,000 steps a day for a certain number of days.

Just remember to avoid using food as your reward!

Revisit your purpose

When your motivation is lagging, it helps to revisit the reason you initially set the goal. Was it to lose weight? To improve your health?

Being reminded of why you started in the first place can act as motivation.

What are the other benefits of walking 10,000 steps a day?

Walking 10,000 steps a day has health benefits over and above just weight loss.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that a greater number of daily steps was significantly associated with lower all-cause mortality.⁷

Another study examined the association of steps per day with premature (age 41 to 65 years old) mortality among black and white men and women. The results showed that among black and white men and women in middle adulthood, participants who took approximately 7,000 steps per day or more experienced lower mortality rates compared with participants taking fewer than 7,000 steps per day.⁸

Walking 10,000 steps a day has been linked to improved mental health. In one study, participants who walked 10,000 steps a day showed decreased incidence of depression, fatigue, and confusion.⁹

The lowdown

There is ample scientific evidence that taking 10,000 steps per day is associated not only with weight loss but also with improved physical and mental health outcomes.

There are ways to incorporate movement into your daily life so that reaching a goal of 10,000 steps a day is not onerous and becomes a habit. It’s useful to have a pedometer or fitness tracker to measure your daily steps.

If you aim for 10,000 steps a day, there’s a good chance that you will not only be thinner but will also be happier and live for longer.

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