Are 10,000 Steps #WorthIt? We Did the Maths So You Don’t Have To

How many calories does 10,000 steps burn? You might be surprised.
Getty/Maria Korneeva

We’ve all heard that 10,000 steps is the magic number for maintaining our health and fitness. It’s the number we hear in corporate step challenges, it’s the number thrown around in health articles, and it’s the number many healthcare practitioners recommend. Given the ubiquitousness of the number, you might wonder: how many calories do 10,000 steps actually burn? 

We Did Some (Shudder) Maths

The number of calories you burn while exercising is, of course, dependent on several factors. These include your weight, walking speed and the type of “terrain” you’re walking on. Basically, suppose you’re scrambling up the shale-y escarpment of Croagh Patrick. In that case, you’ll burn more calories than walking the same distance… down the shale-y cliffs of Croagh Patrick.

You'll burn more calories walking uphill than downhill: pictured the shale incline of  Croagh Patrick
You’ll burn more calories scaling Croagh Patrick than walking to the bus stop, for example. Image Credit: Getty

There are some general rules though, so let’s crunch the numbers. 

The average person burns about 100 calories per 1.6 kilometres walked. The average human step length is roughly 0.7 metres. If we run the calculations then 10,000 steps, on average, burns approximately 500 calories.

That’s not a whole lot, given walking 10,000 steps feels like a lot. Clocking 10,000 steps takes about one hour and forty minutes. Since most humans live largely sedentary lifestyles, walking between 3,000-4,000 steps a day, we’re going well out of our way to fit the extra 6,000 in.

But getting that 10,000 steps in is about more than just burning calories

Walking is Still (Kind of) Worth It

All of your 10,000 step challenges came from a marketing campaign in Japan
An advert for the original manpo-kei or ‘10,000-step meter’.

Firstly, there is strong evidence to suggest that 10,000 steps are more marketing and less science. The magic 10,000-step rule first made its appearance during an advertising campaign for walking clubs in Japan in the 1960s — and it stuck.

However, most research indicates that a far fewer number of steps can reap many health benefits. In a 2019 study, researchers found that women in their 70s who achieved just 4,400 steps a day reduced their risk of early death by 40 per cent compared to women who completed 2,700 steps daily. The benefits of step count peaked at 5,000 steps and then plateaued at 7,500. These results were replicated in several larger, mixed studies.

According to Better Health Victoria, just 30 minutes of walking a day has several benefits, including strengthening bones, boosting muscle, and reducing risks of type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and some cancers. It’s also generally acknowledged that getting out and about is good for your mental health and can improve cognitive function, according to some studies

Studies like these suggest that the general health benefits you can reap by walking can still be achieved, even if you’re not hitting the magic 10,000. So, even if you know that 10,000 steps won’t fit into your day, it’s still worth fitting that 20-minute walk in.

Read More POPSUGAR Fitness

Related Posts
Latest Fitness
The End.

The next story, coming up!