Pedometer technology is booming with hundreds of gadgets and gizmos available to help track your steps and movement. Heck, your cell phone likely does it, too! But how many steps a day should you aim for if you want to lose weight — and are 10,000 steps a day really the best baseline?
The amount of steps you must take to lose weight varies based on your age, height, weight and activity level. Setting goals for yourself, however — like taking 10,000 steps a day — can ultimately help you reach your weight loss goals, but only if you are consistent and pair your active lifestyle with a healthy diet.
Elements of Weight Loss
When it comes to losing weight, the overarching concept is pretty basic. In order to see a smaller number on the scale, you must burn more calories than you are consuming. It seems simple, but there are so many outside influences like busy schedules, social outings and big portion sizes at restaurants, that can cause setbacks for many people. The good news is that there are some general guidelines you can follow to start off on the right track.
In terms of diet, nutritionist agree that lean protein, whole grains, vegetables and fruits are a great baseline to healthy eating. The number of calories you should be consuming for weight loss, however, depends on your age, your height, your weight and your activity level and the Office on Women's Health adds that no diet for an adult woman should be less than 800 calories per day.
To burn calories, Harvard Health Publishing (HHP) reports High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is one of the most efficient methods. HIIT involves short bursts of maximum effort followed by rest. A great example is sprinting. Sprint as fast as you can for 30 seconds and then walk for a minute before repeating.
Read more: The Ultimate Body-Weight HIIT Cardio Workout
10,000 Steps a Day
While HIIT training is the most effective method for burning calories fast, it's not the only way you can burn them. In fact, walking can be effective, as well — you'll just need to walk for longer amounts of time since walking isn't as intense. Just like other forms of exercise, though, walking improves cardiac risk factors like blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, vascular stiffness, inflammation and mental stress.
So how many calories can you burn walking? It depends on your size and your level of intensity. The HHP estimates a 120-pound person burns 85 calories per mile; a 160-pound person burns 105 calories per mile; and a 200-pound person burns 125 calories per mile walking. You can see how these numbers would start adding up when you walk longer distances.
To take it a step further (pun intended), an average person walks 2,000 steps per mile. So, 10,000 steps would equate to approximately five miles per day and approximately 425 calories burned for a 120-pound person; 525 calories burned for a 160-pound person; and 625 calories burned for a 200-pound person.
This is how the math breaks down, but the important thing here is to set goals for yourself and stick with them. Reaching 10,000 steps a day is a great start and if a fitness tracker helps you stay accountable, that's great! But the key here is to keep moving and pair your steps with a healthy diet.
Read more: The Dark Side of Fitness Trackers
- Office on Women's Health: "Weight Loss and Women"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Interval training: More Workout in Less Time (and you can do it)"
- American Heart Association: "Why is Walking the Most Popular Form of Exercise?"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Walking: Your Steps to Health"
- WIN the Rockies: "Step Conversions"