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So, you’re an everyday data-crunching nerd when it comes to your health.

But all the tracking, sharing, and sweating has you wondering:

How many steps should I be taking every day?

Basically, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week — not a specific number of steps.

But a 2011 study found that healthy adults took between 4,000 and 18,000 steps per day, so 10,000 is a reasonable daily goal.

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The idea of 10,000 steps (about 5 miles) may stem from the HHS physical activity guidelines. Some research indicates that’s the level of activity needed to improve health conditions like obesity, high blood pressure, cholesterol, and heart disease.

But a recent article attributes the specific figure of 10,000 steps per day to a 1965 Japanese pedometer marketing campaign (so that number may be more myth than fact).

Regardless, 10,000 steps a day is considered a healthy goal for most adults.

The key is to get your butt up and moving. Here’s a look at steps as they correlate to activity level:

Activity levelSteps per day
inactive (sedentary)<5,000
low activity5,000–7,499
somewhat active7,500–9,999
very active12,500+

Instead of fixating on a target of 10,000 steps, focus on gradually increasing your daily activity, bumping up your step total every other week until you meet your desired goal.

Determining that right-for-you step count should be based on personal factors like age, fitness level, and health goals as well as the HHS activity recommendations.

An online step calculator can help you determine your personalized step target.

For healthy, sustainable results, you should aim to shed no more than 1 to 2 pounds per week. Walking 10,000 steps per day for a week burns roughly enough calories to melt a pound of fat.

Need some encouragement? In a 2017 study, participants who took at least 15,000 steps per day had a lower risk of metabolic syndrome. And walking at least 10,000 steps per day has been shown to contribute to significant weight loss and improve mood.

Before you can improve your fitness level, you need to know where you’re at. An app or an inexpensive pedometer can help you determine your current step sitch.

Next, add 500 to 1,000 steps to your current daily average. Maintain this new level until you’ve adjusted to the change. Repeat the process of making small step increases until you’re clocking in at 10,000 steps (or more!) every day.

Incorporating interval training into your steps is another way to challenge yourself. For example, alternate 30 seconds of running with 2 minutes of walking.

Check this out for more health benefits of walking.

Taking steps to maintain your fitness level

Maybe your current fitness level is right where you want it to be.

In that case, aim for the minimum number of steps that enables you to meet physical activity standards. Adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate to intense aerobic activity each week — that’s 30 minutes of activity, 5 days a week.

With your step goal in mind, it’s time to hustle your bustle. Check out these creative ways to ratchet up that step count:

  • Schedule your walk. Literally block it into your calendar. It’s a meeting with yourself and your health.
  • Break it up. Steps really start to accumulate when you take multiple mini walks throughout the day. Three 10-minute walks — completely doable, right?
  • Bring back the face-to-face. Instead of exchanging Slack messages, walk over to your co-worker’s desk to discuss work. Catch up with your pals on a stroll, not over the phone.
  • Go the distance. Use a bathroom that’s farther away. Get off the bus a stop or two early and hoof it the rest of the way. Take the route less traveled!
  • Pace the time away. Do micro laps around the waiting area next time you have an appointment.
  • Become a stair master. This is an oldie but a goodie: Skip the elevator or escalator and opt for the stairs.
  • Walk the talk. When it’s safe and manageable, walk around while you chat on the phone.
  • Be a sideline strutter. If you attend events that usually include some benchwarming, get up and walk around. (It’ll help with the boredom too.)
  • Get a dog. Ya gotta walk Fido. This is a step-inducing commitment the whole family can get involved in.
  • Take a class. A Zumba class or dance lesson will have you stepping and sweating.
  • Be selective with your pastimes. Opt for activities that naturally encourage walking. For example, try golfing (ditch the cart) or hiking.
  • Take a tech trek. Leverage digital content and resources, like step workouts on YouTube.
  • Get your groove on. Walk to the pace of your favorite jam. This can get your heart pumping!
  • Be open to (m)all walks of life. A step taken on a treadmill is the same as a step taken while mall walking or running errands.

How can you stay on track? Here are a few ideas you can run with:

  • Create frameworks and routines. Sticking to habits is more about discipline than motivation. While motivation can fluctuate based on how you feel, discipline is rooted in practice and behavior. The cool part: Once you get into the routine, your motivation will kick in.
  • Mix it up. Tweak your routine occasionally to keep it feeling fresh (or have a few routines to pick from based on your mood!). Try a different walking route, have a step competition with a friend, or queue up a new playlist.
  • Hold yourself accountable. Track your progress and reward yourself (in healthful ways!) for progress. Small victories are so sweet!

All these apps are freemium tools with additional features available for purchase. Give each one a test walk before settling on one that’s right for you.

  • MapMyWalk: Customize your favorite walking routes and monitor your terrain. It can sync with several devices and health apps.
  • Pacer: On top of walking, you can keep tabs on diet, weight, blood pressure, and other exercise.
  • StepsApp: What it lacks in name creativity (srsly. though), it makes up for in simplicity and ease of use.
  • Argus: This is more of a wellness app — you can track steps, meals, water intake, and so much more. It even monitors the weather, so you don’t have to worry about rain on your parade.
  • Fitbit: Gadget heads, this may be for you! It connects to many devices and apps to track exercise, food, your menstrual cycle, and more. It’s easy to use and well organized, and it shows your progress over time.

Walking is an easy and effective way to stay active and boost your overall health. The number of steps you should take daily depends on your age, sex, health status, and personal fitness goals.

The much-touted 10,000 steps per day is an appropriate goal for most adults. But it’s more important to get moving each day than to focus on a specific number of steps.

There are tons of ways to pack more steps into your day, stay motivated, and track your progress. So lace up those sneaks and get moving!