Can you lose weight from walking 10,000 steps daily?

When was the daily goal of 10,000 steps created and why? Is this a reliable weight loss strategy? It's time to know the truth.

 A man walks a dog along the Hudson River after a winter storm dropped several inches of new snow to the Northeast United States, in Piermont, New York, US, January 7, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/MIKE SEGAR)
A man walks a dog along the Hudson River after a winter storm dropped several inches of new snow to the Northeast United States, in Piermont, New York, US, January 7, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/MIKE SEGAR)

The "10,000 steps per day' method is a mythological goal that many people worldwide cling to and accept as an obvious health benchmark. Have you ever wondered where this originated and why? 

The “10,000 steps” target was created in 1965 by a Japanese company that developed a new product, the pedometer. It was called Manpo-Kei, which literally means "10,000 steps."

This goal was chosen because it’s even and catchy, easy to remember and also much more than most people walk daily. “It was a challenge, but one that is achievable for many,” explained Dr. Thomas Hirai, director of the Bariatric and Metabolic Health Center at San Jose Hospital in California, in a conversation with Insider.  

How many calories can be burned walking 10,000 steps? 

Most people burn 30-40 calories every 1,000 steps. This means that those who meet the target of 10,000 steps a day can burn between 300 and 400 calories every day. But, this is a general estimate which varies from person to person. 

 People take cover from the rain as they walk on Jaffa Road  in the city center of Jerusalem on December 20, 2021. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90) People take cover from the rain as they walk on Jaffa Road in the city center of Jerusalem on December 20, 2021. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Every step you take burns calories, but how much? It depends on one’s weight, your stride and your fitness level along with how quickly one walks, if you walk up hills or not and the geographical area.

Will 10,000 steps a day bring you to your target weight?

To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you put into your body. For most people, to lose half a kilogram a week it’s necessary to have a daily caloric deficit of 500 calories. For people who want to lose weight or maintain their current weight, it’s also recommended to perform 15-200 minutes of exercise every week. Walking 10,000 steps daily can fill some of that weekly quota. But, as Dr. Hirai points out, your chances of losing weight will really improve if, in addition to the steps, you also eat properly.

Walking is considered one of the safest and easiest ways to exercise, and is suitable for almost everyone. But if you’re currently accustomed to a very low level of activity, it can be a bit much to go from barely exercising to walking 10,000 steps a day. Taking on lots of exercise too quickly can increase the risk of injury. For overweight people, the elderly or anyone recovering from an injury it’s recommended to raise the daily goal by a thousand steps every week until you reach 10,000.

People who easily reach a goal of 10,000 steps a day can replace walking with an activity that burns more calories like running or swimming. These activities really help people lose weight. Studies show that walking reduces mortality from any cause, but according to their findings the maximum health benefit is obtained with 7,500 steps a day. Beyond that, the benefits are quite stagnant and no significant benefit has been proven.

The 10,000-step target was created for marketing reasons, not scientific or medical. Yet, researchers know that more movement means more health. Steps or walking are a form of mobility. If you want to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, a goal of 10,000 steps a day can be part of your strategy, but not everything. To lose weight you need to adhere to a healthy diet and daily calorie deficit, and over time, raise your activity threshold.