How Many Steps a Day Are Needed to Maintain Heart Health?
You may have heard that you should take 10,000 steps a day. You may not know that the idea originated in the 1970s when a Japanese company named their pedometer Manpo-kei, which means “10,000 steps meter.” The “10,000 steps a day” phrase was a marketing slogan and not based on medical research. Fast forward to today, and some healthcare professionals and fitness experts suggest 10,000 steps a day as a goal. For example, one popular wearable fitness tracker starts everyone off at 10,000 steps.
Steps have become a common measure when setting fitness goals because they’re easy to understand and measure. And 10,000 steps a day can help a person fulfill the 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week recommended by the American Heart Association. But 10,000 steps a day isn’t an appropriate goal for everyone. Let’s take a closer look at the number of steps needed to maintain good heart health.
How Many Steps a Day Are Ideal?
The number of steps you actually need to take every day to maintain heart health depends on many factors. There’s no magic number that works for everyone. That’s particularly true if you’re recovering from an injury, have physical limitations, or haven’t been active for a while and are beginning a fitness routine.
A 2021 study suggests that walking can help improve your health and lower the risk of premature death. The study’s key finding is that the participants gained more health benefits the more steps they took. The greatest benefits occurred between 6,000 steps and 8,000 steps per day for adults 60 and older and between 8,000 and 10,000 steps for adults younger than 60. Surprisingly, the study’s researchers also found step intensity and speed had no impact on lowering the risk of premature death among the participants.
These results mean that you can set realistic goals that are much lower than 8,000 or 10,000 steps and gradually increase your daily total. For example, Dr. Herbert Semler, an experienced cardiologist trained at the Mayo Clinic (and our founder), recommends that walking just two miles a day can help your cardiovascular systems as much as working out for 30 minutes and breaking a sweat.
How to Get In Your Steps
Over the course of a day, the average person takes between 3,000 and 6,000 steps. It’s difficult for most people — particularly those 65 and older, who tend to take fewer steps than average per day — to get in 6,000 or 10,000 steps following their normal schedules. That means you’ll probably need to develop a fitness plan and make it part of your daily routine.
For most people, it takes about 2,000 to 2,500 steps to walk 1 mile. If you’re just starting out, 2,500 steps may be an achievable number to aim for. Depending on your pace, 2,500 steps will take 10 to 20 minutes. If that seems like too much, you can start lower. As you get comfortable with your initial target, you can increase the number of steps by lengthening your walk or taking more walks each day. You can reach 5,000 steps — the 2 miles that Dr. Semler recommends — in about 30 or 40 minutes minutes.
The study mentioned above found no correlation between walking speed or intensity and a lower risk of premature death. But just as taking more total steps helps improves your fitness and heart health, increasing the speed or intensity of your walking routine will provide extra fitness and health benefits. When you become comfortable with walking a specific distance or time, you can increase your speed or try routes that include hills or stairs. You can also increase your speed or intensity in intervals during your walk. And you don’t have to do all of your steps in a single walk. For example, walk a mile in the morning and a mile in the afternoon, and you’ll reach about 5,000 steps.
“Heart Club is fantastic! It is user friendly and makes it easy to track my daily steps.” – Jen R. Download Heart Club FREE on the Apple App Store and Google Play.
An App To Help You
There are several ways to keep track of how many steps you take each day. A pedometer or a wearable fitness tracker can help you count your steps. You can also download an app that will track your steps for you. Heart Club, our free cardiologist-designed app, provides an easy way to keep track of your progress. It includes a step counter to track your distance. It also records your blood pressure and gives you access to important medical data — all on your phone. See how Heart Club can help you count your steps and improve general heart health for free.