Here's How Many Steps You Really Should Walk Per Day

Walking is one of the easiest exercises you can do and it comes with an endless list of benefits. "Walking improves fitness, cardiac health, alleviates depression and fatigue, improves mood, creates less stress on joints and reduces pain, can prevent weight gain, reduce risk for cancer and chronic disease, improve endurance, circulation, and posture, and the list goes on..." Ann Green, M.S., former heptathlon world athlete, yoga teacher, and fitness studio owner, told NBC News. But how much walking should we really be doing? Is 10,000 steps — the amount we've heard for years is the goal — a day the right number to aim for?

According to Carol Ewing Garber, Ph.D., director of the applied physiology graduate program at Teachers College at Columbia University, 10,000 steps a day is just a "guesstimate." Speaking to Prevention, Garber revealed, "It wasn't based on any particular science that you need to attain that amount of steps to get health or fitness benefits." And I-Min Lee, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and the lead researcher in a study examining how the number of steps taken each day affects women, agrees, telling USA Today, that this guideline is simply a "marketing tool." While it's a good number to aim for, it's really not necessary.

This is the real number of steps to get in each day

According to Professor David Bassett, head of kinesiology, recreation and sport studies at the University of Tennessee, 6,000 steps a day is a good place to start. "Six thousand steps and above is getting you into that range of what these studies are showing and is protective against cardiovascular disease, in particular," Bassett told The Guardian. "And for people who have elevated risk factors to begin with, this can cause an improvement in those risk factors," he continued.

Lee's research, on the other hand, found that it's better to aim for 7,500 steps per day if you're looking to reap long-term health benefits. However, it's important to note that it really depends on the person doing the walking and what they want to achieve. For example, older women who walked 4,400 steps per day indicated a lower risk of dying than those who walked less than half of that number (via PureWow). 

Getting in 2,000 steps more than you would typically walk in a day can provide benefits. The takeaway: Walk! More. But don't put pressure on yourself to overdo it.