Although there are no strict rules about how many steps per day a person needs, staying active and making efforts to increase their average step count per day may help people reach their health and fitness goals.
Using step trackers, smartphone apps, and other fitness-friendly devices can help people count how many steps they take each day.
A person’s daily average step count can vary widely based on a number of factors. These include age, sex, occupation, and even location.
This article looks at these factors in more detail. It also provides some tips to help a person increase their average daily step count.
For most people, walking is a cheap and readily available form of physical activity.
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend getting 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity, such as brisk walking, each week.
Engaging in regular physical activity builds muscle strength and endurance. It may also play a role in preventing a number of chronic conditions, such as:
- coronary heart disease
- type 2 diabetes
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- Alzheimer’s disease
Walking poses little risk of injury compared with other, high impact forms of activity, such as intense sports.
Also, in most cases, walking does not require special equipment or clothing to engage in.
The average daily number of steps a person takes may fluctuate with age.
A study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that adults who took part in an activity challenge walked an average of 6,886 steps per day.
This number may be slightly higher than average, however, as the participants were directly involved in an activity challenge.
Results from an older study, this time in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, found that adults took an average of 5,117 steps per day.
Younger adults and children may take more steps per day. In fact, a 2011 article in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found that people under 18 years of age may take 10,000–16,000 steps per day.
Older adults may vary more than other groups. For example, another article in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity notes that otherwise healthy older adults may average 2,000–9,000 steps each day.
The average number of steps a person takes per day may also vary by sex.
The Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise study found that, on average, adult males took about 5,340 steps per day, whereas adult females took around 4,912 steps per day.
A 2011 article in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found similar results in children.
Young male children took between 12,000 and 16,000 steps each day. Young female children took between 10,000 and 13,000 steps each day.
The average number of steps a person takes each day may also vary based on the type of job they have.
For example, people who spend hours on their feet — such as construction workers, delivery workers, postal workers, and those working in the retail or service industries — may average more daily steps than people who spend hours working at a desk.
However, there has not been much formal research comparing these groups.
A person’s step count may also vary by their location.
For instance, a study in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise notes that people in the United States took fewer steps per day than people from Japan, Australia, and Switzerland, as below:
|Location||Average steps per day|
A more recent study in the journal Nature used smartphone data from people around the world to estimate their activity levels. This study also found that average activity levels vary in different locations, as below:
|Location||Average steps per day|
There seems to be a lot of variance between locations and even between different studies in the same locations. This may be due to differences in the lifestyle, transportation, or general health of the people in those locations.
For people who find it difficult to meet recommended activity levels each day, adding simple activities such as taking more steps can help increase general activity.
An article in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity recommends that inactive adults incorporate at least 30 minutes of brisk walking, which is about 3,000–4,000 steps, each day.
For an average person, walking at a brisk pace means walking 100 steps per minute. This is enough to get the heart rate up slightly, but the person should still be comfortable while walking.
This is a low requirement, and adding more steps or other activities to a regular exercise routine may provide more benefit.
Active, otherwise healthy individuals can reasonably aim for the 10,000-step mark, though other forms of activity count toward this, as well.
The recommendation may be slightly lower for older adults. For example, a study in JAMA Internal Medicine found that older females who took between 4,400 and 7,500 steps per day experienced a lower risk of all-cause mortality than people who took under 2,700 steps per day.
Reaching the 10,000 steps per day mark did not appear to have any extra benefit in these groups.
There are some ways to increase step count and general activity levels, especially when first starting out. The sections below will look at these methods in more detail.
Set goals and stick to them
Starting any new level of activity can be challenging.
It may help to set some goals and write them down to stay motivated. These should be attainable goals.
For example, set a goal to walk for 10 minutes each day at first, gradually increasing this to 30 minutes each day over a period of 6 months.
For other people, setting distance goals may help, such as walking 1 mile or walking to a landmark down the street and back.
Setting small goals and achieving them may help keep a person motivated to continue.
Walk in enjoyable spaces
It may help some people to take their daily steps in pleasant or scenic areas. For others, however, walking around a mall may help keep them motivated.
It is important for each person to decide what they find most enjoyable.
Walk with a friend
Walking with a companion may help a person increase their steps by taking their mind off of the activity itself.
Making walking a social activity may make it more enjoyable and help a person walk more, as well as provide mutual accountability and motivation.
Take the dog
Walking with a dog may help keep some people motivated to walk for longer, or to walk in new areas, which may also make the walk more pleasant.
Park farther away
In areas with large parking lots, trying simple acts such as parking farther away may help a person increase their step count.
Take the stairs
If possible, opting for the stairs rather than the elevator can help increase a person’s daily step count.
It may help some people to see the progress they are making.
Keeping a simple progress journal that tracks the date, the number of steps a person has taken, and their goals can help them see the progress they make over time. This may keep them motivated to take more steps.
The average number of steps a person takes each day will vary based on a number of factors.
People who are actively trying to increase their step count may want to focus on determining their average steps, then finding ways to increase their activity levels slowly.
Trying to reach national guidelines for physical activity is a good place to start the journey, and challenging oneself to move forward and reach new fitness goals may help increase step count over time.