You've finally invested in a fitness tracker, and you've heard that getting 10,000 steps a day can help you lose weight. But just how many calories will it burn? Walking 10,000 steps, the calories you'll burn depend on the intensity at which you walk and your body weight.
How many calories you'll burn walking 10,000 steps is highly variable. You'll burn significantly more if you walk 10,000 steps at a brisk pace during exercise than you will taking those steps during your daily activities.
Estimating Calories for 10,000 Steps
According to the Mayo Clinic, walking 10,000 steps is equivalent to walking 5 miles. Whether or not this is accurate for you depends on your stride length. People with shorter strides won't get as far in those 2,000 steps as people with longer strides.
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How far you'll get isn't as much of a concern as how many calories you'll burn. But the most accurate estimates for calorie burn use distance to determine total calorie burn per mile walked at different speeds. To find out how many calories you'll burn through walking 10,000 steps, you can use your distance plus your pace and body weight.
A faster pace increases the intensity of the activity, which is the main factor affecting calorie burn. The higher the intensity of your activity, the higher your heart rate gets. A higher heart rate equates to greater calorie burn.
Calories Burned Walking 10,000 Steps
Your body weight also makes a difference, because it takes more effort to propel a larger body forward. But regardless of your weight, walking at a faster pace for 5 miles actually burns fewer calories than walking 5 miles at a slower pace, because you're walking for a shorter amount of time.
According to estimates from Harvard Health Publishing, a lighter person weighing 125 pounds will burn around 340 calories walking 5 miles at a pace of 3.5 miles per hour. A heavier person weighing 185 pounds will burn 504 calories walking at the same pace for 5 miles.
Walking at a faster pace of 4.5 miles per hour, a 125-pound person will burn 325 calories and a 185-pound person will burn 481 calories walking 5 miles.
Keep in mind that these are calorie burns for walking 10,000 steps for exercise. The steps you take in your daily life — walking around your kitchen cooking dinner or walking from your desk in your office to the restroom — do not burn as many calories.
Reaching Your Goal
With that in mind, your goal should be to get your steps in during dedicated periods of exercise, where your aim is to increase your heart rate. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week for weight maintenance and overall health benefits.
Brisk walking on relatively flat surfaces qualifies as moderate-intensity exercise, as long as you walk fast enough so that your breath quickens and you break into a light sweat after about 10 minutes, explains the Mayo Clinic. During moderate-intensity exercise, you can have a conversation but you wouldn't be able to sing.
Take those 10,000 steps in a hilly part of town or on an uphill hike in the mountains and your walk may qualify as vigorous exercise. At a vigorous pace, your breath is deep and rapid, you break into a sweat quite quickly and it's difficult to speak more than a few words without needing to pause for air.
You can also get some steps in walking around the gym while you lift weights, because the Department of Health and Human Services also recommends total-body strength training at least two times each week.
- Mayo Clinic: "Walking: Make It Count With Activity Trackers"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights"
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition"
- Mayo Clinic: "Exercise Intensity: How to Measure It"