Want to Feel Amazing? Walk for This Many Minutes Every Day
You know that whole "walk 10,000 steps a day for better health" thing that we believed for years and years? Turns out that advice was…well, kind of a myth.
We're not saying that walking isn't beneficial. (Just look at our site!) There are decades of research backing up the benefits of walking for cardiovascular health, mobility, longevity, and more. But the 10,000 steps a day idea likely originates from an old marketing campaign, not any sound scientific evidence.
Which raises the question: How much should we walk every day to feel amazing and fully reap all of the health benefits? Likely a lot less than you think.
"The point of diminishing returns [for health]…appears to be about 4000 to 6000 steps," says Rob Arthur, CSCS. If you're walking at a brisk pace of about 100 steps per minute, that translates to around 40 to 60 minutes of walking per day.
This isn't to say that walking more than that is bad for you, says Arthur. But research seems to show that after a certain step count, the benefits you enjoy start to plateau. Pushing yourself to 10,000 steps (aka walking for a whopping 100 minutes a day) may be unnecessary.
Surprised? We were too. Here's the lowdown on just how many minutes per day you should be walking, depending on what benefit you want to maximize. And for more walking-related intel, check out: Incredible Things That Happen When You Walk More, Say Experts.
Why walking at least 40 minutes a day is great for you
As mentioned earlier, taking more steps per day is beneficial…up to a certain point. Indeed, a 2019 study in JAMA Internal Medicine found that women who took 4,400 steps per day (which translates to about 44 minutes of walking per day) had lower mortality rates than women who took 2,700 steps per day. With more steps, the mortality rates decreased until leveling off at 7,500 steps per day (aka walking for about 75 minutes per day).
Another study in JAMA Network (which looked at men and women) found that walking 8,000 steps per day (aka 80 minutes of walking) was associated with a lower mortality risk than people who took 4,000 steps per day. Per the New York Times, walking more than that per day didn't help people live any longer, either. For more on walking for longevity, don't miss: If You Can Walk This Far, You May Live Longer, Says Science.
But even 20 minutes is enough to help
However, if you're targeting other benefits besides longevity, the ideal walking amount can change. Dana Santas, CSCS, a top trainer and professional sports mind-body coach, recently told CNN that at least 20 to 25 minutes of brisk walking can help enhance sleep.
Meanwhile, a recent study in PLOS Medicine found that people who walked at least two hours per day (and did more intense exercise for an additional 50 minute per week) had nearly zero risk of heart disease.
Do what you can, when you can
That's kind of a wide range of recommendations, which can be a tad confusing. But Arthur says to focus not on a set number but rather getting in as much movement as you can on a daily basis. Don't beat yourself up if you can't hit a certain step count or take a 75-minute walk, he says, because that's still better than doing nothing at all. "I would encourage [people] to have some self-compassion there, and to call it good enough whenever they do whatever they can," he says. Read more: Secret Tricks for Walking for Exercise, According to Walking Specialists.
Ways to step up your walking time
If you're having trouble getting enough walking into your day, Arthur has some tips to help you stay on track. First, he suggests "anchoring" your walking to an existing habit or action you do every day—say walking after a meal—to help you stick with it. "Rather than making this entirely new routine to walk at some random point in your day, you're tying it to an existing routine," he says. He also loves to take phone calls while walking in order to sneak some steps in without having to think too hard about it.
And don't feel the need to go from zero to 60 minutes of walking all at once, either. It's more sustainable, Arthur says, to level up your walking time slowly. If you walked for 10 minutes today, try going for 11 or 12 minutes tomorrow. "Focus on progress over perfection," he says, and just do what you can. The fact remains that any amount of walking is good for your health. If you need some more walking inspo, check out: These Walking Workouts Will Help You Get Lean, Says Trainer.