With the rising popularity of the 10,000 steps challenge, there are a lot of questions that people have been asking me, and how many steps a day to lose weight fast is right at the top of the list.
Simply said, walking more than you do now is going to help you burn more calories. If you’re only walking 4000 steps per day, for example, walking 6000 is going to help you shed at least a few pounds.
But, like anything else, there’s always more detail.
Things like how many calories you can burn walking, or how many steps you’re taking now, or is walking even better than running — it’s things like these (and a few more) that you need to take into consideration if you want to use your legs and the road in front of you to lose weight.
Today, we answer those questions with hopes that you walk away from this article (pun intended) with all that you need to know to put more purpose in those strides, starting with this:
How many steps do I need to take to lose weight?
Well, that depends.
First, you need to know how many steps you’re normally taking right now.
Without that information, there’s no way to know exactly how many steps you need to add to start losing weight.
Having said that, we talked about this in our How to Lose Weight Walking 10,000 Steps A Day article but in a nutshell, you’re going to need some sort of pedometer to count your steps and around a week’s worth of data to get an accurate average.
Smartwatches like the Fitbit Charge 4 are what I recommend because they don’t interfere with your walking and they track a lot of other useful things other than your steps. But, a lot of smartphones already have activity trackers built into them, so of course you can use that, too.
Next, add at least 1000 steps to that daily average.
Whatever the number of steps you normally take everyday, the MayoClinic suggests adding 1000 steps to that value every 2 weeks.
However, I want you to think of these numbers as suggestions rather than concrete rules.
If you don’t feel like you can add more steps right now because of an injury or if you’re really out of shape, don’t worry if you have to take more time. Try adding steps after 3-4 weeks instead, or whenever your injury gets better.
On the other hand, adding 1,000 steps might be too little if you’ve been relatively active. After all, the better shape you’re in, the easier it’ll be for your body to adjust. In this case, try adding 2000, maybe even 2500 steps every 2 weeks.
Does walking make you lose more weight than running?
Technically yes, but also no.
Disregarding any other factors, the steps you take running will burn more calories than walking, so it’s certainly going to give you faster weight loss results.
For instance, Harvard says a 185-pound person would burn through 355 calories running 5 mph versus just 200 calories when walking 4 mph every 30 minutes. Bump up the running speed to about 7.5 mph and that person would use up 555 calories.
The difference is simply too large to ignore, so if you can run, run.
However, not all of us can tolerate that level of activity. Or at least, not at first. In that case, forcing yourself to run will only get you injured — and if (or when) that happens, you’ll be forced to put those shoes back in the cabinet until you recover, and you stop losing weight altogether.
In this case, I say just take it slow. Walk slow if you need to then walk faster when you feel comfortable, then faster some more until you run.
How many steps a day is considered active?
A lot of experts, including 10,000 Steps — an organization developed by Australia’s CQUniversity and funded by the Queensland government themselves — consider 10,000 steps per day as a good benchmark for being “active”.
Per the organization, Any number below that and you’re either sedentary, low active, or somewhat active. On the other hand, walking more than 10,000 steps is considered highly active.
On that note…
Do you really need to walk 10,000 steps?
For the average, healthy adult, yes, I believe 10,000 steps should be your goal. However, it’s never really the same for everyone, is it?
Children, for example, inherently take more steps whereas the elderly naturally walk less.
That being said, consider 10,000 as sort of a guide rather than a be-all-end-all.
Particularly if you’re sedentary or have been living a lazy, unhealthy lifestyle up to this point, the 10K mark might be too high, and therefore psychological, emotionally, and physically way too taxing to make any sense (refer back to the “How many steps do I need to take to lose weight?” part at the top of the page).
Set smaller, more achievable goals instead and work your way up from there.
On the contrary, boxing yourself to just 10K steps when you can certainly do more will only end up hurting your progress. In this case, take more steps.
Taking steps (e.g. walking, running, and jogging) aren’t the only ways to be considered “active” either, which brings us to the next question.
What can I do instead of walking?
Fitbit says the reason they’re pushing people to walk 10,000 steps is that it equates to about half an hour of daily exercise for most people. I checked with the CDC’s standards and this certainly fits the bill.
However, the CDC also recommends different levels of aerobic activity and muscle-strengthening activities together. Specifically:
- Moderate-intensity aerobic activity (for 150 minutes every week) + strength training (for 2 or more days a week)
- High intensity aerobic activity (for 75 minutes every week) + strength training (for 2 or more days a week)
- The equivalent mix of either of those combinations.
And just to differentiate between moderate and high intensity activities, the South Dakota State University says this:
- With moderately intense activities, you can talk but can’t sing.
- With highly intense activities, you won’t be able to speak more than a few words without catching your breath.
Having said that, there are quite a number of ways you can achieve this.
For example, you can go slow dancing, which is considered a moderately intense activity, for 30 minutes on Mondays through Fridays then do some push-ups and squats on the weekends.
Or, you can go swimming or skip rope (both considered highly intense activities) for 25 minutes every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday then go to the gym on the weekends. That works, too.
The bottomline is that figuring out how many steps a day to lose weight fast all depends on where you’re at right now, so you have to figure that out first.
Determine a baseline using a smartwatch or your phone, then gradually add a least 1000 steps or so every couple of weeks, or more if you feel like your body still isn’t ready.
Also, losing weight doesn’t have to be just about moving one foot in front of the other. 10,000 steps is a great goal for sure but you can substitute or complement that with other activities that you might find more enjoyable.
Aaand that’s it for me. I seriously hope this helped — and if it did, tell your friends about it, will ya?