Walking a mile burns as many calories as running a mile, with less impact on the joints. This makes walking an excellent physical activity to get in shape. Unfortunately, most Americans don’t walk enough, and walk far less than adults around the world.
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The number of steps taken per day by a U.S. adult likely falls somewhere in the range of 5,117 and 6,540, as reported in studies published in the journal "Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise" in 2010 and 2009, respectively. Two thousand steps equals roughly a mile of walking. So, the average American walks about 2.5 to 3 miles per day. Assessing the number of steps a person takes during a day is complicated by the inaccuracies of pedometers and accelerometers. Both the 5,117 and the 6,540 figures have been corrected for what is assumed to be a tendency to overestimate the number of steps taken per day by these recording machines.
The 2010 "Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise" study compared the number of steps taken by U.S. adults to adults living in other places of the world. The American adults -- 5,117 steps -- took far fewer steps than adults in western Australia -- 9,695 steps, Switzerland -- 9,650 steps, and Japan -- 7,168. On average, Americans walk a mile or two less per day than adults in Australia, Switzerland and Japan.
U.S. children ages 6 to 11 average approximately 10,400 steps per day for boys and 9,400 for girls. That amounts to roughly 5 miles of walking per day. Boys aged 12 to 17 will take 8,400 and girls 6,400 steps per day, or 3 to 4 miles. These step figures fall short of the recommendations for walking for children -- 13,000 to 15,000 steps -- and adolescents -- 10,000 to 11,000 steps.
While the average U.S. adult walks 2.5 to 3 miles per day, the maximum an adult can walk per day is much more than that. An average adult can walk 3 to 4 miles per hour at a comfortable pace or 96 miles in 24 hours. The world record for the most miles walked in 24 hours was set by Paul Forthomme in 1984. He walked 140.698 miles.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise: Accelerometer-determined Steps Per Day in US Children and Youth.
- International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity: How Many Steps/Day are Enough For Children and Adolescents?
- Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise: Accelerometer-determined Steps Per Day in US Adults.
- Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise: Pedometer-Measured Physical Activity and Health Behaviors in U.S. Adults
- Athletics Weekly: World Records and Best Performances
- The New York Times: The Pedometer Test: Americans Take Fewer Steps
- Shape Up America: 10,000 Steps