Is reaching 10,000 steps a day really what we should aim for?

Is reaching 10,000 steps a day really what we should aim for?

STEPtember is almost here, so I thought it would be a great time to talk about activity tracking.

Recent studies support the notion of aiming for 10,000 steps a day, in order to better your health. The research has shown that reaching this guideline can have benefits for

  • Body composition
  • Blood pressure and
  • Cholesterol levels

We are now living in a society where we can easily monitor this. We have fitbits and smart phones that can not only count steps, but sometimes map GPS data and even heart rate!

It’s a fantastic goal to have, but is this the be-all-and-end-all?

In short, no.

I have had this debate with many people (mainly my partner) that:

Copy of Copy of Copy of Copy of Womens Health Week 1

“Number of steps does not equal amount of exercise”

Example 1: I can spend the day on my feet, walking at a leisurely pace from here to there, maybe doing some housework and often get 8,000-10,000 steps… yet I haven't been at all breathless. So let’s look at what we are really aiming for in terms of guidelines –


30 minutes a day, on most days of the week  (or at least 2.5 hours / week) of moderate exercise.

At least 2 sessions a week of resistance training

Incorporate flexibility, balance and/or pelvic floor training as appropriate.


Moderate exercise is at an intensity that gets us slightly breathless. Where you could hold a conversation without needing to stop after each word, but wouldn’t be able to sing.

Consider this when we are accumulating steps – it’s about 100 steps to walk to the toilet at work, but I’m certainly not breathless upon returning, so to me this isn’t ‘exercise’.

Example 2: I love strength training! This is something we should all be doing 2x week. Sometimes I’m standing in one spot or even lying down when I’m lifting weights, which doesn’t accumulate any steps- so does that mean that I haven’t reached my exercise goal for the day? Not at all! In fact, weight training is also great for body composition, blood pressure and cholesterol!

Example 3: Research shows that for many people achieving around 7000 or 8000 steps is enough to have a positive impact on health. We often see the biggest improvements when people go from being inactive, to simply doing something.


Tracking steps and aiming for 10,000 a day is a great place to start, but please use this as a guide for general activity – not exercise levels! This STEPtember do yourself a favour, and make those steps as purposeful as possible and get a little puffed out. Accumulate your steps from long walks or runs, rather than just daily movement.


- Emily Sando, Accredited Exercise Physiologist

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