Trainers and fitness influencers always seem to recommend walking 10,000 steps a day. The number has become a sort of golden rule in wellness. But unless you’re a dedicated treadmill desk girly, it can be tough to rack up that many steps in a 24-hour period.
Even when you want to walk more and make every effort to do so, 10,000 steps is roughly equivalent to five miles, which is a lot of strolling. There’s also something about the big, round number that can feel intimidating and unreachable. If this all rings true for you, here’s some encouraging intel: It might be just as good to walk 8,000 steps a day. According to trainer Michael Hamlin, the 10,000-step goal has been floating around for years, but there isn’t necessarily anything special about that number.
Any amount of walking is good for your health, of course. How far you should aim to go depends on quite a few different factors, like your fitness level, age, etc., says Jenni Hackworth, a certified personal trainer. “For some people, 10,000 steps may be a more challenging but achievable target to strive for, while others may find 8,000 steps more manageable,” she tells Bustle. If 8,000 sounds like the better deal, trainers say that’s OK. Here’s what to know about walking a little less.
Is Walking 8,000 Steps A Day Enough?
While any type of movement is beneficial, walking 8,000 steps a day offers a lot of the same benefits that come with walking longer distances. Hamlin points to a couple of studies to back this up. “The first one [published in Nature Medicine] breaks down different step counts and shows that 8,000 provides the highest benefit for the amount of work you put in,” he explains. “This means that you may still find extra benefit in doing more steps than 8,000, but the return you get becomes smaller and smaller the more steps you do.”
The other study, published in The Lancet, was a meta-analysis of 15 other studies. “It showed that those who are 60 and older may find the most benefit at 6,000 to 8,000 steps, and those who are under 60 years of age may find the most benefit at 8,000 to 10,000 steps,” he says. “In the end, every exercise plan should be unique and specific to you as an individual, but aiming for 8,000 is a good starting point for most.” Fabulous.
The Benefits Of 8,000 Steps
Just because you’re knocking 2,000 steps off of the famous 10K number doesn’t mean you’re skimping on the health benefits. A study published in JAMA found that women who walked at least 8,000 steps a day had a reduced risk of developing cardiovascular disease compared to those who walked less than 4,000 steps per day, Hackworth says.
Another perk? Walking just a tiny bit less helps reduce the wear and tear on your joints, especially compared to more extreme step counts. If you have knee or ankle pain, aiming for fewer steps might be just what the doctor ordered. Of course, something about 8,000 also seems more doable, even though it isn’t that much less than 10,000. If you’ve struggled to hit your 10K goal, give yourself a break and go for eight instead.
To add more steps to your day, Hackworth recommends the classics: taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking instead of driving when you run errands or get coffee, and going on a stroll during a lunch break or after dinner. You can also set reminders on your phone to get up and move regularly throughout the day, and wear a step tracker as a way to physically see your steps add up. Your smartwatch might not celebrate the 8,000 steps with badges or alerts, but you’ll know it’s just as good.
Cao, ZB. (2014). Steps per day required for meeting physical activity guidelines in Japanese adults. J Phys Act Health. doi: 10.1123/jpah.2012-0333.
Master, H. (2022). Association of step counts over time with the risk of chronic disease in the All of Us Research Program. Nat Med. doi: 10.1038/s41591-022-02012-w.
Paluch, A. E. (2022). Daily steps and all-cause mortality: A meta-analysis of 15 international cohorts. The Lancet Public Health, 7(3). doi: 10.1016/s2468-2667(21)00302-9.
Saint-Maurice, PF. (2020). Association of Daily Step Count and Step Intensity With Mortality Among US Adults. JAMA. doi: 10.1001/jama.2020.1382.
Michael Hamlin, personal trainer
Jenni Hackworth, certified personal trainer, yoga instructor