How Many Steps Should You Take Each Day?

by Monique Helou – RHN, RHC, MPH | November 21, 2022 |


Physical activity reduces morbidity and mortality from several chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer, and is associated with a higher quality of life. The number of daily steps is a straightforward indicator of physical activity. As fitness trackers and mobile devices have grown in popularity, it is now easier than ever for the general population to track their daily steps. Although the target of 10,000 steps per day is often pushed as best for general health, it was never an evidence-based magic number but rather a marketing tool for a 1960s-era Japanese pedometer.


This article is sought to determine the relationship between daily step count and all-cause mortality. 

Achieving 10,000 steps per day has long been considered the best fitness objective, but recent studies reveal that you can walk fewer steps as low as 7,000 steps and yet have significant health advantages. 


The optimal number of steps required to lower the risk of death could be influenced by factors such as age or gender. Walking volume and speed decline with age and may vary by gender; hence, the distribution of steps differs between younger and older persons and by gender. 

  • Mortality risk levels off for older women (aged 62 years) at 7500 steps per day, 
  • and for individuals aged 40 at 8000–12 000 steps per day. 


In a cohort study of middle-aged Black and White women and men, higher daily steps were associated with a lower risk of death from all causes. 

  • Adults taking at least 7000 steps per day had a 50% to 70% lower risk of mortality compared to those taking fewer than 7000 steps per day. 
  • More than 10,000 steps per day was not associated with a reduced risk of mortality. 

The findings in this study are consistent with a nationally representative prospective cohort study of men and women from NHANES. The NHANES study of 6355 men and women (mean age, 57 years) discovered that higher step volumes of 8000 to 12 000 steps/d were associated with a 50% to 65% reduction in mortality risk compared to the 4000 step/d group. These results were consistent across racial and ethnic groups and for both genders. In the NHANES study, women, men, non-Hispanic Black, and non-Hispanic White participants taking 8000 steps/d (as opposed to 4000 steps/d) had a 52% to 55% lower risk of mortality with risk reductions reaching a plateau at approximately 10,000 steps/d. In contrast, the Women's Health Study14 found a plateau at 7500 steps/d, which may be attributable to the older age of the participants (mean age, 72 years). Similar improvements in fitness and functional status, as well as health benefits, may necessitate a lower activity volume for older adults.


In a meta-analysis of 15 studies, seven published and eight unpublished, found that taking more steps per day was associated with a decreasing mortality risk, with the risk plateauing for older adults (aged 60 years) at approximately 6000–8000 steps per day and for younger adults at approximately 8000–10 000 steps per day. There was inconclusive evidence that step intensity was associated with mortality beyond total step volume.


What are the advantages of walking daily? 

There are numerous advantages to ensuring that you walk every day. In addition to protecting your heart and relieving joint discomfort, it also increases your vitality and immunity. Additionally, there are mental health benefits: Walking not only improves self-esteem and happiness, but also decreases stress and anxiety. 


No gym membership or fee is required; all you need is a pair of supportive shoes and the wonderful outdoors.


What are some simple strategies to increase your step count? 

The advantage of beginning a walking regimen is that you can get your steps from anywhere, whether it's to your apartment or office, although this has become more difficult over the past two years due to quarantine. 

Instead of taking the elevator, you should consider using the stairs. Another trick is to park further away from your location or to exit public transportation one stop earlier. Don't forget to log your progress, whether via app or pedometer, regardless of how you count your steps.