The Power of 10,000 Steps

Female friends wearing Fitbit trackers, walking and shopping.

When it comes to movement, I try to make my days as inefficient as possible. I know that sounds crazy—especially since my book is all about getting more out of doing less—but hear me out. By doing things less efficiently (walking to the coffee shop instead of brewing a cup at home, pacing inside while talking on the phone, choosing the stairs) I’m able to build more organic movement into my day.

I do this despite getting regular “exercise”. Why? Because my health depends on it and so does yours: Earlier this year the American Heart Association published a research-based advisory warning that even vigorous exercise doesn’t seem to erase the damage that multiple hours of sitting does—namely increasing your risk of heart disease and diabetes.

There’s also evidence that how active you are over the course of a day can impact your weight. On average obese people sit for two and a half hours more each day than lean people and lean people stand and walk an average of more than two additional hours a day than obese people, according to research by James A. Levine, MD, Ph.D., a professor of medicine at Mayo Clinic.

That’s why I challenge myself, my clients, and now all of you to get at least 10,000 steps a day. That number may seem arbitrary, but 10,000 steps roughly equates to 5 miles, which (when it includes 30 minutes at a moderate intensity) satisfies CDC guidelines of at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week.

It may also feel high. If you’re like the average American, you’re currently only walking about half as much. But that’s ok. It just means you’re going to have to consciously build more movement into your day. So, grab a friend and schedule regular, “formal” walks around your neighborhood, or adopt my strategy and think of ways you can make your life less efficient—ie: park your car farther from entryways, walk over to a coworkers desk instead of emailing them, etc… .

If you use a Fitbit Alta, Flex 2, Charge 2, or Blaze you can also enlist your tracker’s help.

Just click the Hourly Activity tile on your Fitbit app dashboard and customize which hours of the day you want to aim to get 250 steps—or roughly two to three minutes of walking, which has been shown to help offset the negative effects of sitting. Your tracker will buzz ten minutes before the hour if you have yet to hit your goal.

5 Pounds by Harley Pasternak


Absolutely no time to move? Try one of these 13 ways to sneak fitness into your day. Or pick up my book, 5 Pounds: The Breakthrough 5-Day Plan to Jump-Start Rapid Weight Loss (And Never Gain it Back!, for more ideas.


Next, discover Three Ways Sleep Deprivation Makes You Fat—Plus 5 Ways to Get More Shuteye.  It’s the fourth part of the My 5 Plan.

34 Comments   Join the Conversation

34 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Good info I try to hit 10,000 steps a day x 5 days last year was able to get most weeks in walk on treadmill and attend Zumba Zumba Strong and Zumba Step going to continue to commit to be fit I use the Fitbit Zip and see my progress weekly via IPhone

  • I absolutely love my Fitbit flex! It gets me up and moving all through my work day. I can’t seem to lose a single pound, yet I have about 55 pounds to lose! I can see the last 10 or 15 pounds being tough, but all of them? It’s not easy, but I will keep trying!

  • I walk on the average 25,000 h 36,000 steps per day. I am a dog walker living in Brooklyn heights. My Fitbit automatically posts my daily stats on my Twitter account ” noitnshoit”,

  • I have a new Blaze. The day after Christmas I went to Costco and walked the entire store….pushing a cart. None of my steps registered. Why?

  • I have 2 fitbits…the flex charge 2 and one that has time, steps, miles, calories, stairs. I prefer to wear the later as I can be anywhere and know time and steps. Several times in the last month it will zero out? Don’t know why…I have been over 10,000 and even though it had synced earlier in the day it doesn’t show the points zeroed out? My Grandaughter oned hit the button and it zeroed out and put a timer on?

  • I love my Fitbit zip but have had mega issues with my battery life, they literally need replacing every two weeks, I’ve been keeping track each time Fitbit sends me that dreaded email, I make a note of the date,
    I do enter challenges daily and get in between 10 and 20 k daily, yesterday I hit 40k. Sleep is nearly non existent and no matter how hard I try to lose, it won’t happen for me. What can I do?

  • Have a new Fitbit Alta. Absolutely do not like it. Very difficult to get on. I need help getting it on and my husband has a hard time getting it on me. I had a Charge HD and loved it however it did break after eighteen months.

  • I love my Fitbit Alta too. Especially when I’m close to 10,000 steps I’m encouraged to get moving to reach my goal. Also doing my exercise videos racks up a lot of steps so I’m motivated to do them.

  • I love my fitbit zip! This is my second one because I lost the first one and I was devastated until my new one arrived. It has become my second hand and is such a motivator. I’m retired but still manage to get on the treadmill almost daily for an hour and if I haven’t reached at least 10,000 by evening, I’m walking around my kitchen and dining room until I reach my goal. I try to get at least 15,000 to 20,000 but with my sciatica acting up, it’s been a challenge. Also trying to lose weight, but even with the extra exercise, it just doesn’t want to come off. I figure that even if I don’t lose weight, I have to be doing something good for my body. Thank you for such a great motivating device.

  • I love my fit bit and have lost 15 lbs since August. I’m averaging 7200 steps per day and will be increasing to 7500 at the start of the new year. I would advise people to start somewhere and increase in increments until you reach that 10000 mark. It’s worth it!!

  • Love my fitbit ,I do grocery shopping,I found out it wasn’t tracking many steps because I held on to cart, so I was told to strap to ankle, I can’t get heart rate but enjoy seeing steps and earning my rewards!

  • I’ve been getting my minimum 10,000 steps a day since May 29th, 2015 without missing a day. That’s a streak of about 580 days. It’s hugely rewarding and I agree about the need to be inefficient in getting steps wherever possible. My best day was 137,000 steps and my average is 15,300. It’s great for both physical and mental wellbeing.

  • My friend and I have use the fit bit HR since January each of us have lost weight because we walk regularly and count the calories I love the fit bit HR and have had very little trouble with it I really think if you log in the calories and keep active it’s all in the math calories in calories out

  • Am waiting for my Flex2 to arrive, which replaces my broken HR. It was no longer under warranty but FitBit offered me a 25% discount on my next purchase. I delayed, thinking I would not replace it, but I miss my FIBIT! It really does help to ge pt one on a good exercise regimen. And I will be able to swim with the Flex2.

  • I have a fitbit surge I have had to leave it 3 times in one year cause it quits syncing to my phone I love it when it works, today I turned on the elliptical part of it and it only counted 260 of my 2064 steps it’s very up setting

  • I lost my Fit Bit Force when I first got it Dec 2013 while Xmas shopping. Used my computer to see when my last steps recorded. Using my store receipts(and the were a lot) I determined I was at Bed Bath & Beyond at that time period. Drove back there the next morning and lo and behold it was on the floor under a rack by the check out. I was absolutely thrilled to find it. And pretty proud to be able to track it like I did. Thanks Fit Bit for changing my life. I’ve lost 30 lbs, sleep soundly, never tired and overall feel healthier.

  • I rely on my FitBit Charge HR to keep track of my 25,000 steps per day (about 14.3 miles per day, 100 miles per week). That may seem like a lot of walking (and some days, it really is tough to walk for 3-4 hours with work and commute), but I’m down over 100 pounds in the past 10 1/2 months and have even bigger weight-loss and fitness goals for 2017.

  • I had spinal surgery about 3.5 months ago and finally walked 6000 steps the other day. I had to mow the grass. Boy, did I hurt that evening. But I did it. I am 68 years young.

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