You’ve probably heard that walking 10,000 steps a day is brilliant for your physical and mental health, and increasing your daily step count could help you lose weight, strengthen your lower body and core, and improve your cardiovascular health.
Having recently chatted with my colleague, who walked 10,000 steps for 90 days and noted things like improving walking form, staying motivated and methods for increasing step count, I wanted to know if walking 15,000 steps a day for one month would make any difference to my health. And just how much movement would it take to reach this daily goal?
To my dog's delight, I strapped on one of the best fitness trackers (I wear an Apple Watch) and got outdoors with her for some extra strolls. Here’s why it matters and how many steps a day you really need to make a difference.
How long will it take to walk 15,000 steps?
15,000 steps could take roughly 2-2.5 hours if you walk between a moderate 3mph pace or brisk 4mph. Speed, stride length and height will play a role, so you could cover 15,000 steps faster or slower depending on how you approach it. Wearing a fitness tracker or taking your phone with you can be useful for tracking steps.
Walking 15,000 steps a day: Benefits
Whether you’ve vowed to do more walking workouts this year or want to get outdoors more often, whatever your reason, just 30 minutes of walking each day can benefit your body — from strengthening your joints, bones and muscles to improving cardiovascular fitness (the health of your heart and lungs), burning calories and losing weight by walking.
We’ve covered how many calories you can expect to burn by trying uphill walking versus running and hiking versus power walking to help you gauge which type of walking activity suits your needs most. Just remember, if your goal is to lose weight and burn calories, walking can contribute toward your overall activity levels (more on this below), and you’ll also need to look at your diet, sleep hygiene and (as a general rule), burning more calories than you consume.
I walked 15,000 steps a day for 30 days — here's what I’ve learned
It doesn't take 15,000 steps to make a difference
There are benefits of walking 15,000 steps a day for weight loss and health — the more you move, the more calories you’re likely to burn. However, you don’t need to hit 15,000 or even 10,000 steps (yes, you read it right) to notice the many benefits of walking.
A systematic review published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, updated as recently as 2023, found that as few as 2,600-2,800 steps per day could lower the risk of mortality and cardiovascular disease, respectively. Continuing to add 1,000 steps (roughly 10 minutes of walking) can provide further benefits, with the “optimal health benefits” achieved at around 8,800 steps for mortality and 7,200 for cardiovascular disease. The study also concluded that a higher cadence provides extra health benefits beyond overall step volume.
Where did 10,000 steps a day come from? The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, equating to roughly 20-45 minutes per day, so that doesn’t guarantee 10,000 steps. According to various sources, including Harvard Health, the magic 10K was plucked from a Japanese marketing campaign in the 1960s!
It takes a while
Not everyone has time to get outdoors and walk 15,000 steps — as someone who spends long days at a desk writing, I understand that. I own a very energetic dog who needs two walks a day and teach fitness classes weekly, so squeezing extra movement into my days comes by default. But even after adding my workout routines into that mix, I still don’t reach that number some days. Enter, the 15K challenge.
How does the average person walk 15,000 steps? Throughout the challenge, I focused on a little something called NEAT — Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis — which references energy expenditure unrelated to “dedicated” exercise (think of your favorite spin class or Pilates workout), sleeping, or eating.
Take the stairs where possible, stand while you work, indulge in hobbies like gardening, or play with your children — all are valuable for increasing your step count. Accumulating activity helped me reach 15,000 steps without thinking about it, and can increase your metabolic rate. One of my favorite techniques was taking the dog outside and throwing a stick for her during lunch breaks.
Walking increased mindfulness, clarity, focus and energy
Coupling a daily walk with breathing exercises (Garmin recommends these 3 breathwork activities using your watch) could significantly impact your wellbeing and mood, helping your body increase time spent activating the parasympathetic nervous system — the “rest and digest” mode. Various studies have shown that walking in green spaces can reduce anxiety, improve mood and decrease negative feelings. That can include walking in your local city park, by the seaside, or through forests and fields.
Walking anywhere helps me feel calmer and more grounded, and I use the time to do some thinking and problem-solving. Interestingly, a Stanford study found walking could boost creativity, and results suggest walking itself is the main factor, not the environment. Whenever I take a walk before work, even if it requires waking up earlier, I have better clarity, focus and energy levels to approach my day with. Besides, all exercise forms (including walking) release endorphins, which reduce stress and pain.
All in all, I felt great every time.
I've walked 15,000 steps a day for the past 30 days — here's my verdict
You don’t need to achieve 15,000 or 10,000 steps a day to benefit from walking — consistently accumulating steps and averaging even 7,000 could boost cardiovascular health and longevity. Moreover, anything you can do is better than nothing, and this rang true for me.
How did I find walking 15,000 steps a day for one month? I love nothing more than walking my dog with headphones in and a podcast on — the whole experience is incredibly soothing and invigorating, and the world feels lighter, too. But despite making me feel good, walking 15,000 steps a day took more thought and planning than I anticipated on days without teaching classes or other exercise forms.
While I’ve enjoyed instilling these healthy habits, I won’t pressure myself to hit 15,000 steps every day. On days I do, it’s a bonus. If regular walks aren’t possible for you, I’ve included some walking ideas below, and learning more about NEAT could help you clock up steps without taking too much out of your daily routine.
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Sam Hopes is a level III fitness trainer, level II reiki practitioner, and senior fitness writer at Future PLC, the publisher of Tom's Guide. She is also about to undertake her Yoga For Athletes training course. Having trained to work with mind and body, Sam is a big advocate of using mindfulness techniques in sport and fitness, and their impact on performance. She’s also passionate about the fundamentals of training and building sustainable training methods. When she's not writing up her experiences with the latest fitness tech and workouts, you’ll find her writing about nutrition, sleep, recovery, and wellness.