I have a friend who is in the medical profession. I recently asked her about the correlation between "10,000 steps per day" and losing weight. Her answer about what I had just accepted as a fact actually caught me off guard a bit.

You've probably heard the same "fact" that I have been living with for as long as I have owned a smartphone with a health app. 10,000 steps are kind of the gold standard when it comes to physical activity in today's sedentary lifestyle.

How Much Physical Activity Does a Normal Person Need Every Day?

First, let's be clear on one thing. We all need a certain amount of physical activity in our lives if we want to maintain a healthy weight and keep certain health issues at bay. Walking is a great exercise. Almost all of us can find some time to do it during our day-to-day activities although it is pretty hard to work in 10,000 steps in the confines of today's modern office.

What researchers have found is that 10,000 steps are a great place to start when it comes to setting your weight loss goals. But for most people to actually see the numbers on the scale go down, you are going to have to go about 5,000 more steps to really see the weight loss benefits.

Sincerely Media via Unsplash.com
Sincerely Media via Unsplash.com

How Many Calories Will Walking Burn Over the Course of a Day?

In very simple non-doctor terms if you want to lose weight you have to burn more calories than you take in. For most people, a journey of 10,000 steps will burn between 300 and 400 calories. Doctors say in order to achieve weight loss we need to have a daily calorie deficit of 500 a day. So by walking 10,000 steps, you'd only need to eliminate 100 or so additional calories from your current diet.

That feat seems easy enough. But when I look at my scale, I guess it isn't that easy.

How Many Steps Do I Need to Take Per Day if Weight Loss is my Goal?

However, increasing your daily steps to 15,000 is almost a guarantee that you'll end each day in a weight loss calorie deficit. And if you've modified your diet to control your caloric intake you can really reap the benefits of your extra effort.

The beauty of the "steps" to lose weight process is this. Those steps don't have to be taken all at one time. If you can just add in those extra steps over the course of your day then it's guaranteed that we will be seeing less of you.

Jeffery Grospe via Unsplash.com
Jeffery Grospe via Unsplash.com

How Far is "10,000 Steps"?

In case you were wondering "How far are 10,000 steps anyway" that will naturally vary depending on your size and stature. Your size and stature will also determine how many actual steps you need to hit that 500-calorie-per-day deficit you're trying to reach.

For our purposes, we are going to assume a six-foot-tall individual. For that person, about 2,000 steps equals a mile. If that individual weighs 250 pounds they will burn 137 calories for every 2,000 steps.

So to reach the goal of a 500-calorie daily deficit our individual in question would need to walk about 7,000 steps. But since a lot of us aren't six feet tall and weigh a lot less than 250 pounds we are going to need that extra activity.

According to one chart, a person weighing 120 pounds will still not reach that magic 500-calorie deficit even at 15,000 steps. They will get close but will still be a couple of tic-tacs short of that goal.

Frank Busch via Unsplash.com
Frank Busch via Unsplash.com

Could You Explain This to Me Like I'm Five?

So, the TL/DR version of this really quite simple. To maintain good health, 10,000 steps is a great number. If you want to lose weight, add 5,000 more steps to your daily activity and you will notice a difference, assuming you make no changes in your diet. Now, if you put yourself on a lower-calorie diet and do the extra 5,000 steps then you will really notice the benefits faster.

One more thing, I am not a trained medical professional so use this article as a starting point for a discussion with your healthcare provider before beginning any exercise program. And whatever you're doing, keep doing it if it makes you feel better and helps your clothes to fit better. but just know a little extra effort is probably all that you're lacking to see the results you've been wanting.

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