Discover How Many Calories Burned Walking 10,000 Steps (& Why I Think it’s BAD)

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Who else wants to know how many calories burned walking 10,000 steps?A Fitness Tracker Used to Count Your 10,000 Steps

10-15 years ago if you asked someone how many steps they’d taken, or what their step goal was for the day, they would’ve probably glazed-over and given you a blank stare.

However, the step revolution is definitely among us nowadays.

It’s now almost impossible to walk down the street and not see a fast-moving mum in a tracksuit (after school drop-off), and her giving you the thumbs up and mouthing, “8,000 down, only 2,000 to go.” (Okay, I exaggerate, but you get my meaning).

And the mere explosion of gadgets and gizmos, such as modern-day pedometers, step counters, and fitness trackers, it seems like everyone is constantly counting to reach the “magical” 10,000 number.

With that said, I think there are a number of other factors you should be aware of.

So, I’d like to discuss where this concept first originated, how many calories 10,000 steps burn, and why I think all this hype around “10,000 steps” may actually be a bad thing.

The Origins of The “10,000 Steps”

You would think that the 10,000 steps phenomenon would be a recent innovation.

A conclusion based on scientific evidence proving that this is the optimum number of steps that we should be taking on a daily basis.

If only.

In fact, we have to go back over half a century to discover how the mythical 10,000 number was first brought to life.

Japan was preparing to host the 1964 Tokyo Olympic, which prompted an increased focus and awareness on physical fitness.

People were becoming more attuned to the fact that being active and exercising regularly could help prevent certain lifestyle conditions such as, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.

Exercise was also seen as the solution to fight the fast growing epidemic of obesity.

And of course the easiest form of exercise that was available to everyone was walking.

This seemed like perfect timing for one company who introduced the modern pedometer into the Japanese Marketplace.

The Manpo-kei pedometer was simple in design and could be worn around the waist.

It would calculate the number of steps that the user had walked, although other calculations, such as distance, would be left to the user to work out (calorie-counting hadn’t really taken off yet).

The pedometer became extremely popular, as more-and-more of the Japanese public wanted to get fit, and chose walking or jogging as their main form of exercise.

Manpo-kei translated into English – “man” means 10,000, “po” means steps”, “kei” meaning meter.

The new fitness craze saw the emergence of numerous Japanese walking clubs, and Manpo-kei became their slogan, while 10,000 steps became the bare minimum that members were expected to walk.

The walking (and jogging) craze soon started to filter it’s way around the world (as well as the 10,000 steps mantra), and the rest, as they say, is history.

Calories Burned By The “Average” Person Walking 10,000 Steps?

Now before I go any further you should be aware that there are so many variables to the “calories burned in 10,000 steps” conundrum that it’s literally impossible to give you a specific, individual answer.A Person Walking Along a Path in a Wooded Area

We would have to consider factors such as your weight, how you’re completing the 10,000 steps, the speed at which you’re walking, to name but a few (I’m not going to confuse matters further by talking about your height and the length of your stride).

Most articles, blog posts, and other sources of information will provide an “average”, but it’s actually quite clever the way in which they do this.

Allow me to explain.

The “average” is given as a person weighing 180lbs, while walking at a brisk pace of 4 mph (this will be extremely rapid for most people), and typically completing their 10,000 steps all in one go.

Working on these assumptions we can make the following calculations:

This “average” person will take 2,000 steps to complete one mile, therefore they will need to walk 5 miles to achieve their 10,000 step goal.

This same “average” person will burn 100 calories per mile, so 100 calories per 2,000 steps.

Thus meaning 500 calories for 5 miles or 10,000 steps.

This is where the “clever” bit comes in.

So, if you complete 10,000 steps a week (and you are this “average” person in terms of weight, speed, and completing your steps all in one go) then that will be 70,000 steps or 3,500 calories burned in total.

As a general rule of thumb 3,500 calories is equal to 1 pound of fat.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

It looks like the creators of Manpo-kei aren’t the only ones with very savvy marketing tactics.

What About The “Not So Average” Person?

So, as you can see based on the “average”, a person can expect to lose 1 pound of fat a week by walking 10,000 steps a day.

Well isn’t that nice and neat.

If only it was that simple.

As I say, there are various factors to take into consideration.

Firstly, the average weight of 180lbs.

Well, some quick research revealed the following interesting figures.

According to Wikipedia the average weights around the world are as follows:

  • Africa – 133.8lbs
  • Asia – 127.2lbs
  • Europe – 156.1lbs
  • Latin America and the Caribbean – 149.7lbs
  • North America – 177.9lbs
  • Oceania – 163.4lbs
  • World – 136.7lbs

So, as you can see every region of the world falls under the “average” of 180lbs.

Therefore, the claims that you can lose 1lb of fat a week by walking 10,000 steps a day are not what they may seem.

Obviously, there will be many people within these statistics who weigh 180lbs or over.

In fact, based on Wikipedia’s figures the “lightest” region of the world, Asia, still has an overweight population of 24.2%.

The “heaviest” region of the world, North America, has a whopping 73.9% of the population who are overweight.

Whereas, 34.7% of the World’s population is overweight.

But, that is not to say that weighing 180lbs or over makes you overweight, and in many cases, far from it.

Basically, the heavier you are the more calories you will burn while being active, and the lighter you are, the less.

Therefore, a person weighing 120lbs walking at the same pace would only burn 60 calories a mile, and therefore 300 calories for 5 miles (10,000 steps), thus meaning they would burn 2,100 calories for the week.

This would mean it would take them 11 days and 16 hours to burn 3,500 calories (or 1lb of fat).

However, this doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it?

If you walk 10,000 steps a day you could burn 1lb of fat every 11 days and 16 hours”.

Furthermore, we also have to look at the speed at which you’re walking.

Back to our 180lb “average” person who decides to take a leisurely 30-minute stroll at 2mph – they will have burned 102 calories during this time.

They have still walked a mile (so you could argue that walking a 15-minute mile only yielded 100 calories burned, whereas the snail’s pace burned 102 calories), but the slow pace will have meant many more steps being taken.

In truth, they would have perhaps taken 3,000-3,200 steps to walk the 2mph mile, so in reality their 10,000 steps for that day would perhaps only burn about 350 calories maximum.

According to research the average walking pace is 3mph.

Allow me to wrap up all these statistics into a nice easy format for you – the faster you walk (irrespective of weight), the greater your heart rate, and the more calories you will burn.

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Why I Think The 10,000 Steps Phenomenon May Be a BAD Thing

I think it’s important for me to point out that I am not telling anyone to just stop being active here, or give up on walking and exercise.

My reasons for not being a huge fan of “10,000 steps” is down to the mental aspect and how we perceive our exertions for the day.

Not Enough Activity

It is estimated the average person (we’re back to the average person syndrome again) walks 5,000-7,000 steps while completing their normal daily activities.

Therefore, they would only need to walk a further 1.5-2.5 miles to complete their step count.A Person Laying On The Couch Watching Netflix on TV

Unfortunately, walking for 1.5 miles “extra” a day may be considered a great starting point in terms of exercise for someone who is very overweight or obese, but it just won’t cut it for the vast majority of us.

You Become Less Active For the Rest Of The Day

The more active we are throughout the day, the greater the chance of reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

However, one of the worst things we can do is sit for many hours a day.

Basically, whenever we are sitting, we produce less muscle contractions, which in turn makes the body less insulin resistant (less responsive to insulin).

The aftermath of this is that fat and sugars are more likely to remain in the body, which leads to excess fat and a potential build-up of plaque in the arteries.

Unfortunately, while exercising is great for our health and the body, you can counteract the harm you are doing by sitting around doing nothing for the long periods of the day.

In fact, there have been studies that show that even when people are exercising for over an hour a day they are still at risk of various diseases because of the amount of time they spend sitting.

You Eat More

I will hazard a guess the reason you want to know how many calories are burned from walking 10,000 steps is because you are either looking to lose weight or get into better shape.

Calorie-counting has become a huge thing over the past 40 years or so, and there are even many weight-loss diets and programs that focus on cutting down or controlling your calorie intake.

Now I’m not saying this is a bad thing, especially for those that are extremely overweight, but I for one haven’t counted calories (or worried too much about weighing-scales) for many, many years.

I know if I am eating a healthy and nutritious diet and exercising (to my capabilities) that I will stay in shape.

The way I check if I’m on-point is by looking in a mirror – this will provide me with far more information than any weighing scales ever could.

With that said, many people tend to look at their goal of reaching 10,000 steps as a great thing and then reward themselves with sugary treats and poor eating habits.

You know I’m right – how often have you hit 10,000 steps every day for a week and then decided to splurge on burgers, pizzas, take away food, cake, ice cream, etc?

There’s no harm in having the occasional “treat”, and I am “guilty” of doing it myself every once in a while, but gorging on treats on a regular basis will not have the desired effect on weight loss or attaining the body of your dreams.

Missing 10,000 Steps Can Be Demotivating

How often have you missed your step count for the day?

If you’ve ever missed out on the magical “10,000” number I’m willing to bet you’re extremely negative and down on yourself.

Being more active isn’t about beating yourself up.

If for example, you’ve had a great gym workout, or done some bodyweight HIIT, or even a spin class, you may not hit your 10,000 step count for the day, but you’ve sure had a great day in terms of exercise.

It’s all relative.

However, being negative about missing out on 10,000 steps will simply demotivate you, and it may not be long before you decide to give up completely and fall back into bad habits.

Walking 10,000 Steps a Day Doesn’t Do Anything

Final Thoughts

So, there you have it – my thoughts on 10,000 steps, calories burned, plus the good, the bad, and the ugly.

This is possibly not what you wanted to hear, but hopefully you understand that there are a few lessons to be learned here.

I’m not knocking the “10,000 steps” I just think that we should all aim to be more active in the right way.

I’ll agree that walking is without doubt one of the greatest forms of exercise there is, but there are many other factors that you also need to focus on in the battle to lose weight and burn body fat.

Are you currently on a 10,000 steps a day mission?

Is it working for you?

Do any of my “bad” factors ring true for you?

I’d love to hear from you, so drop me a line in the comments section below.

6 thoughts on “Discover How Many Calories Burned Walking 10,000 Steps (& Why I Think it’s BAD)”

  1. Hey,

    This is such a great topic to have brought to our attention, because as you say, it’s what everyone’s talking about! I suppose it is a succinct way of measuring we have a certain activity parameter each day, but as you say it can have its pitfalls too.

    I totally agree that it can exhaust you in one go and therefore make you a couch potato for the rest of the day which as you say isn’t good. It’s interesting that you say we do that much normally through everyday activities so it is much better to spread it throughout the day. I agree, I am a strong believer in sustained levels of activity throughout the day as I think this increases our functionality and means we have more stamina. This is how overall increase and stamina is achieved.

    However, I guess the barometer of 10,000 steps a day is helpful for certain lifestyles as well. Some people work from home a lot, or are sitting at a desk for hours a day, and then of course there is parents with young children who don’t necessarily have the time or energy to plan exercising in for themselves, so figuring out ways of getting to 10,000 steps eg walking the kids to school and keeping an eye on step count throughout the day can be really helpful. I think for sedentary lifestyles it is a good barometer, but as you say it its not the ideal for most physically active people. It’s so interesting to hear you talk about it’s origins, I had no idea it dated back so far! Step count is an interesting way to gauge activity; as a professional dancer I notice during rehearsal periods that my Fitbit will often have a step count of 30,000+ at the end of a day so this can be a helpful gauge in comparison to normal daily activity.

    I think however a downside is that people can become obsessive about it, (and burning calories) rather than making a decision based off of tuning into your body and what it needs. Like with everything in life, I guess it’s a case of balance as you say and making sure you use it for good rather than harm.

    Thanks for such an interesting and engaging read, it’s definitely helped keep me on track with making sure my head is in the right space in terms of fitness 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Natalie,

      Thank you so much for your well thought out and informative comments.

      Yes, I definitely don’t want to say I’m not a fan of the “10,000 steps”, but it does have its downsides.

      As you’ve quite rightly pointed out, “sustained levels of activity throughout the day” is definitely the way forward.

      I think for most people who are fairly active, they are always typically buzzing around and doing something.

      However, my worry is that for someone who isn’t particularly active, and doesn’t exercise regularly, they will always aim for their 10,000 steps a day, and leave it at that.

      As I’ve mentioned this is fine for someone who is very overweight or completely new to exercise, but not reaching you’re 10,000 step goal can be very demotivating.

      Whereas, someone who has achieved their daily goal could feel that it’s okay to just sit around for the rest of the day (but as we now know – sitting around for long periods of time can do a great deal of harm, even if you have been active earlier in the day).

      Wow, I’m guessing a professional dancer you never have to worry about step count (but more the types of steps you are making), as I know it is one of the fiercest and best forms of “exercise” out there. I can well believe the 30,000+ steps by the end of the day.

      I never count my steps, but my phone does have a step counter on the home screen. I have certainly hit days where I’ve completed 20,000+ steps just from going about my daily activities, visiting to the gym, and perhaps taking a walk in the evening.

      Natalie thank you so much for your kind comments as well, always lovely to hear and very much appreciated.

      Partha

      Reply
  2. Good thinking, Partha, thanks!
    4 years ago I was one of those mindless followers of the 10.000 rule. A friend was raving about it, so I started too. I searched for information on the internet, as I always do, only this time for some reason I only read the positive articles.
    After 2 months of faithfully walking 10.000 every day, my shin started to hurt. Not at the beginning of the walk, but after about 7.000 steps. And instead of lowering my goal I thought it was better to not be a sissy. (Hah, you thought I was a sensible person. Well, at times I am not obviously 🙂
    The following month ended with a visit to the fysiotherapist, who said my shoes were totally wrong.
    By that time I had no goal anymore, because my leg was hurting all the time.

    Long story short – when I was finally able to walk normally again, I lowered my goal to 5.000 steps. I can be pretty monomaniac when it comes to goal setting, I’m trying to change that. And 5.000 works for me. If I am not doing my daily walk, I am still getting this goal, because I walk every half hour in order not to sit too much. And on normal days (walk included) I have about 8.000 steps.

    BTW I don’t walk so much to loose weight, but to boost my immune system.

    Oh, and I remember I read a story once about a person (way more goalsetter that I am clearly) who wanted to walk 100.000 steps on a day! Can you believe it? He accomplished it as well. The story didn’t tell how he felt afterwards 😀

    Reply
    • Haha, lovely to hear from you Hannie.

      Well, that brightened my day somewhat, although sorry to hear about your shins.

      Yes, I think attemtping to walk 10,000 steps all in one go, or basically walking 5 miles a day, will take some doing.

      I even know for me, someone who regularly exercises every day, I would definitely feel the effects of walking 35 miles a week.

      As I’ve mentioned, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to have specific goals for your activity levels, but I believe that many people follow the “10,000 step method” without much thought to how active they’re being once this is completed.

      I, much the same as you, walk very regularly (in fact, every single day), but for me this is much more about clearing and focusing the mind first thing in the morning, as opposed to exercise.

      Typically, the day (or sometimes two) that I have off from the gym are the only days when I hit 10,000 steps. However, I know that my other “activities” are doing far more for me in terms of my health and fitness.

      Thanks
      Partha

      Reply
      • You are very right, Partha, it’s not just the walking and then stuffing yourself or hanging on the couch. I do consider my walk as exercise, and also as a moment of quality time with my hubbie. Not that it’s the single time on a day we talk 😉 but while walking we are sometimes also quiet, so the conversations are different.

        Reply
        • I love that idea Hannie.

          Admittedly, I do go for walks every-now-and-then with my partner, but it’s not a regular occurrence – we tend to exercise seprately.

          But I do recall fondly the times that we have gone for a long walk in the countryside, spent some time together talking about anything and everything, and putting the world to rights.

          I will say though that our long walks are usually followed by a nice pub lunch and a glass or two of something enjoyable, LOL.

          Partha

          Reply

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