Walking is one of the best forms of exercise out there. After all, it’s easy to do and requires no specific gear. Simply grab a pair of socks and your favorite kicks and head out the door. It’s healthful. Walking can strengthen your muscles, improve sleep, and is good for your heart. It improves circulation and lowers your blood pressure, and walking is low-impact. Most individuals are capable of taking a few steps or a stroll around the ‘hood. But do you know how many steps a day you actually need to take to lose weight? Maybe, but probably not. Why? Because that magic number you may be thinking of is (somewhat) arbitrary.
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“Taking 10,000 steps a day is a traditional goal in achieving fitness and lowering the risk of heart disease and stroke,” Dr. Liana Casusi, MD, a licensed physician, tells Parade.com. “However, studies have shown that at least 15,000 steps daily is optimal to shed a few pounds for weight loss. Reaching this goal improves metabolism significantly, preventing increased sugar levels and deposition of fat around the waist.”
Physical therapist Alicia Filley adds that in order to lose a pound a week, you’ll need a 500-calorie deficit each day. That means, you need to burn or decrease your dietary intake by 500 calories, or some combination of the two. Most people can burn 300 to 400 calories a day simply by walking 10,000 steps. That means, you’ll only need to lower your caloric intake by 100 to 200 calories. “But walking is an easy way to do this, since all 10,000 steps don’t have to be taken at one time,” she says.
Here’s everything we know about how many steps you should actually take for weight loss
How many steps should you take a day?
The number of steps you should take each day varies from person to person and situation to situation. It is also contingent on a wide variety of factors, such as your age, gender and diet. However, it doesn’t take much to reap the benefits of walking.
“Studies have demonstrated that 4,400 steps a day significantly decreases your risk of getting chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease, and stroke,” Dr. Casusi tells Parade.com. “Increasing to 8,000 steps a day resulted in a 51% reduction in having a chronic disease … and while these numbers may seem overwhelming [to some], you can achieve this gradually. I usually advise my patients to start by finding out their average daily steps. From there, set a goal to add 500 or more steps weekly until the goal of 8,000 steps is met.”
How many steps should you take to lose weight?
If you want to lose weight from walking, you’ll need to rev things up a bit. “If the goal is weight loss, I do say you should aim for 10,000 steps a day minimum,” Dr. Casusi says. But you shouldn’t stop there.
“As you get comfortable with 10,000 steps, try reaching more,” Dr. Casusi adds. “Researchers have found out that 15,000 steps a day is correlated with a lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome, a condition that manifests as increased blood pressure, elevated blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and excess body fat around the waist.”
That said, it is important you set realistic goals. Choose a number that works for you, your lifestyle, and both your physical and mental needs.
How many calories does walking really burn?
The amount of calories you burn while walking will vary, with weight and distance being the biggest factors. However, according to Calorie Burner HQ, most individuals burn an average of 100 calories per mile walking.
If you’re walking for weight loss, you’ll want to get the most out of your routine. After all, each step you take is a step toward a better, more healthful life. But what can you do to maximize your walk — and your workout? Dr. Eva Gamallo, MD, a licensed physician, tells Parade.com that changing the intensity of your workout and the duration will give you the most bang for your buck.
“Extend 30 minute walks into an hour, especially on weekends,” Gamallo says. “Increasing the duration is an effective way to increase your calorie burn. You should also embrace interval training. This is highly recommended for people who are just starting out and/or those who haven’t built much endurance to sustain a brisk pace for the entire workout.” Plus, on longer walks you tend to boost energy and immune function and strengthen your heart, making it a real win-win.
Another way to rev up your routine is to change your walking surface. It will also work different muscles and improve the overall quality of your walking workout. Taking the stairs, for example, will lengthen your stride.
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You should also be consistent and persistent. “Consistency and staying motivated is the best way to improve the quality of steps,” Gamallo continues. “Not only does this enhance endurance, but this also gives the added health benefits that come with walking.”
This content was originally published here.