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10 000 steps to fitness

Your steps per day might vary according to your fitness goal, but experts seem to agree on this magic number. We found out why.

One small thing: Take up walking – whether it’s for 20 minutes during your lunch break or with the dogs once you get home, you’ll easily reach the target of 10 000 steps a day.

It might surprise you that 10 000 steps was not the brainchild of an activity-tracking business. The story goes that a pedometer company in Japan came up with the magic number to promote their new pedometer (a device that measures your daily steps). They had no research at the time to back up this numeric fitness goal, but it seemed to resonate with people and quickly gained a following.

As the movement grew, researchers started investigating and it seems the Japanese were not far off the mark because 10 000 proved to be a good indicator that the individual was getting close to the recommended amount of daily physical activity.

Moving matters

Adding any kind of movement to your day is important, but the experts agree that taking it one step further and setting a daily goal will help to reduce health risks, support weight loss and put you on the road to wellbeing.

Following the science

The World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines recommend 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, which equates to 30 minutes, five days a week, for adults aged between 18 and 64. If you adhere to this guide, you’ll probably accumulate 10 000 steps in no time, but 10 000 might not be the right amount for everyone.

According to researcher Catrine Tudor-Locke of the University of Massachusetts, who has been studying the efficacy of pedometer steps for many years, if you walk 5 000 steps a day, regardless of any formal exercise, you should look for other ways to add 2 000 or 3 000 additional steps to your day.

Through her research, she developed these categories for healthy adults based on the steps per day they recorded:

  • Sedentary lifestyle index: under 5 000 steps per day (inactive and not enough movement during the day, which raises the individual’s risk of chronic diseases).
  • Low active: 5 000 to 7 499 steps on average for an individual, excluding sports and exercise.
  • Somewhat active: 7 500 to 9 999, which could include brisk walking and exercise. This number could be attributed to someone who has a job that includes more movement.
  • Active: 10 000 steps is the ideal benchmark. It’s perfect for maintaining fitness levels as well as weight. It also indicates optimal daily movement, aligned to WHO guidelines.
  • Highly active: Anything more than 12 500 steps per day indicates a highly active individual and someone who moves at work and incorporates additional exercise into their day.
Walk the weight off

Steps can help you burn extra kilojoules and adding 2 000 steps (it sounds more than it is) could help you maintain a healthy weight. In fact, research suggests that 2 000 steps can help you burn about 418 kilojoules and make a real difference to your body.

If you’re ready to get started, invest in a pedometer, such as the Smart Fit smart watch available in PnP stores, and keep a journal of how many steps you walk every day. Start low and work your way up to more as you gain confidence and your fitness level improves.

Disclaimer: Pick n Pay recommends that your consult with your doctor or a medical professional before starting any new exercise programme. An exercise regimen is best tailored to the individual and their unique health profile. Any exercise carries risk of injury – especially if you have a pre-existing health condition. The individual accepts sole responsibility for any loss or damage that may result.