Whether you track your steps with a wearable device or through your phone, knowing how much you’ve walked in a day can be an extremely useful tool for weight loss. Many of our jobs entail sitting for a majority of the day, which can be bad for your body and your brain. However, simply walking and tracking your steps every day can reduce health risks and may even help you lose weight. But how much do you actually need to move around to reap the benefits?
The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns against a sedentary, inactive lifestyle and recommends 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes a week of high-intensity activity. In other words, you need to be active for 30 minutes a day, five days a week. For additional health benefits, the CDC recommends doubling your goal and fitting in up to 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity or 150 minutes of high-intensity physical activity.
Laura Arndt, an NSCA-certified personal trainer and the CEO of Matriarc, a health and wellness app for moms, helped us break the CDC’s recommendations into steps. Arndt said a 30-minute brisk walk can get most of her clients “between 3,000 and 5,000 steps, depending on their speed and their gait. However, we shouldn’t be sitting the remainder of the day, so the goal is to achieve another 5,000 steps through everyday activity.”
Arndt recommends that her clients aim for 10,000 total steps a day but notes that isn’t a realistic goal for everyone. “The best thing to do is have someone wear a fitness tracker for a week, see what their average step counts are over the course of the week, and have them aim to increase their step counts by 10 percent,” Arndt said. “This gives them a realistic goal, but it also forces them to step up their daily activity.”
If you’re specifically looking to lose weight, the intensity of your physical activity plays a significant role as well. “How briskly you walk plays a large role in how many calories you actually burn when walking. Walking a very slow 10,000 steps may not be adequate to actually result in weight loss,” Gregg Kai Nishi, MD, bariatric surgeon at the Khalili Center and the director of the Institute For Minimally Invasive and Robotic Surgery at K and B Surgical Center, told POPSUGAR. “Conversely, walking very briskly, even if less than 10,000 steps, may be much more beneficial in terms of weight loss.”
But even walking a brisk 10,000 steps per day may not be enough to burn off pounds on its own. “In addition to looking at your step counts, strength training has scientific benefits for increasing your metabolism, burning calories, and therefore helping with weight loss,” said Arndt. “The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn during rest and during activity.” She encourages her clients to start or continue a strength-training routine a minimum of two days a week, including free weights or activities such as yoga or a bootcamp-style class.
Of course, increasing your activity won’t result in weight loss if you aren’t creating a calorie deficit. It’s also important to take a look at your eating habits throughout the day. While walking 6,000 to 10,000 or more steps a day can promote several health benefits, keeping track of what you’re eating and how many calories you’re consuming will go a long way toward helping you achieve your weight-loss goals. Be sure to eat a daily diet that consists of a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, protein, and healthy fats in addition to getting an adequate amount of physical activity if you’re trying to lose weight.