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Does it really matter how many steps you walk per day?

10 December 2021|3 min read

Key Points

  • The origin of walking 10,000 steps per day wasn’t a health directive.
  • Goals shouldn’t focus on how many steps per day but rather on moving your body more.
  • Incidental exercise could play a role in health and fitness, as well as intentional exercise. 

The year was 1965. A new step counting device, called the “manpo-kei”, entered the Japanese market. In English, this translates to “10,000 step meter”. Believe it or not, this was the origin of the idea of reaching 10,000 steps per day. 

The deceit of it is almost too much to bear. 

If one of your fitness goals is to hit 10,000 steps each day, Personal Trainer Gabrielle Petterwood says now is the time to move the goalposts.

“If you’re moving your body regularly throughout the day, that’s more important than walking around your living room at 9pm trying to hit 10,000 steps,” she says.

So, if we don’t need to walk 10,000 steps each day, what should we be doing instead? 

What is 10,000 steps in km?

10,000 steps in km really depends on the length of your stride and how fast you walk. The actual distance could vary from 7-10km.

How long does it take to walk 10,000 steps? Again, it depends on how fast you walk but it’s likely around one and a half hours.  

The Australian Bureau of Statistics found that, on average, adults in Australia take around 7,400 steps per day. So, if you aren’t hitting 10,000 steps a day, you certainly aren’t alone. 


10,000 steps in km really depends on the length of your stride and how fast you walk.

How many steps per day do you really need?

While the ideal of walking 10,000 steps per day may be based on a marketing gimmick, there is most definitely value in thinking about how much you move.

“Research shows that prolonged sitting, which many of us do when we work in office jobs, may be detrimental to our health,” explains Gabrielle. “But when you break up those periods of sitting by standing and moving every 30 minutes, it may have health benefits.”

The question then isn’t about how many steps per day to stay fit, but how much you need to move your body to stay fit.


The question then isn’t about how many steps per day to stay fit, but how much you need to move your body to stay fit.

The Australian physical activity and exercise guidelines

Interestingly, the Australian physical activity and exercise guidelines don’t mention the number of steps you should be taking for physical health. Instead, the guidelines recommend being active most days and completing a certain number of activity hours each week. 

For adults aged 18-64, the recommendation is to engage in moderate physical activity for 2.5 to 5 hours a week or vigorous physical activity for 1.25 to 2.5 hours a week. Alternatively, you could try a combination of moderate and vigorous activity. 

Whether that’s achieved through making the most of the benefits of hiit workouts, using your at home gym equipment or doing free yoga online

There are no recommended steps per day by age, but the physical activity guidelines do change depending on your age. For people aged 65 and over, the guidelines recommend 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week.

Gabrielle also says that as you age, you do get a great deal of benefit from physical activity. But you also need to be aware of the signs of overtraining to avoid injury. 

“Honestly, it comes down to keeping as active as you can, being mindful of warming up to prevent injury and understanding how to get rid of sore muscles. But as you get older, you don’t want to do too much as that’s where injuries and the like may happen also,” she explains.


Don’t forget about the incidental exercise you can do throughout the day.

Stepping it up with more incidental exercise

According to Gabrielle, the more active you are, the more energy you use. 

“Even if it’s just standing up from your desk every 30 minutes to refill your water bottle or get a coffee, you’re still moving and burning energy,” she says.

Yes, there are benefits of lifting weights for strength. Yes, you can do your core exercises at home and add in some of the best compound exercises for a full body workout. But don’t forget about the incidental exercise you can do throughout the day.

Here are some ideas to incorporate more incidental exercise into your day:

  • walk the kids to school instead of driving
  • use a stand up desk to take a break from sitting throughout the day
  • walk around the house while you’re on the phone instead of sitting
  • add in some squats while you’re hanging out the washing (they’re one of the best bodyweight exercises for glutes)

Steps to health

Sure, you can measure 10,000 steps in km and aim to walk that distance every day. But smart fitness goals should be achievable. 

Try starting with a 30 day family fitness challenge and make it fun. Move your body more doing things you love, and it will be so much easier to stick to the habit. Remember that rest days are also important!

“You could do 10,000 steps or only 5,000 steps but if you’ve taken movement breaks every 30-60 minutes then that’s great,” says Gabrielle, “If at the end of the day you feel good, then that’s really positive.”


Gabrielle Petterwood is a Personal Trainer with a holistic approach to fitness, nourishing the body with fresh foods and living a healthy and balanced lifestyle to realise full body health.

Reviewed by the healthylife Advisory Board November 2021.


This article is for informational purposes only and does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website or by this brand is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. If you have any concerns or questions about your health you should consult with a health professional.