Is 10,000 steps a day still a thing?


Hello hello and happy Sunday! With this summer weather in the bay area and getting out of the house more, my partner and I have become more and more attached to our step counts - especially on weekends. I've got the apple watch and he has a Garmin, and it's almost a competition to see who has the most steps at the end of the day. However, he's been stuck on the 10,000 minimum for years to the point where when he hasn't had his 10,000 for the day I can tell his mood is affected.


Did anyone else see this article from the NYT a few weeks ago?


Is anyone else finding themselves redefining their walking (or workout) goals? Is it healthy to lower your goal to help your mental state of mind? Does anyone else use 10,000 as their walking goal or is that old news now? So many questions lol, but curious if others are experiencing something similar.



These are such great questions! I read that article as well and funny enough have a similar experience with my partner and his dedication to beating the 10K daily goal.


I'd love to know what some of our guides in mental health, mindfulness, and movement have to offer here. For me personally, I've had to work on detaching from my fitness goals because they seemed to be doing more harm than good. I suspect having a good baseline goal is still a "healthy" habit, but maybe it's not the 10K steps (or maybe it is - it's probably very different for each person). Setting realistic expectations and detaching from the outcome of the goal has become my work (and maybe your husband's too!).


Adding some of our amazing guides to weigh in @Dani_P @Rachel_M @Chris_F 

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Thanks for starting this conversation @MollJ84! Honestly, I wish people were as committed to meditating as they are taking 10k steps! For me, I'm trying to actually remove the pressure that things like this tend to create for me, and instead focus on calming my mind. 


Great question. For some reason I can’t open that NYT article… Maybe I have to be a subscriber? But the bottom line is the 10,000 steps is an arbitrary number. It was set by some guy in Japan if I am remembering correctly and it was very arbitrary as a number to say “hey this would be a good amount of steps per day for health.” There is truly no science behind it. But about a decade ago there was an organization in America that grabbed onto it and used it as a baseline for daily steps.  It has amazingly become a standard for people.  And inherently movement is good so I have no problem with setting goals… But if you hang your hat on the 10,000 step rule… There really is no reason. For me personally in the summer I can easily get in the steps because I take daily walks. In the winter I may tend to do more strength classes because I’m indoor. And those are very valuable and good for my health but don’t correlate to my steps.   And if you walk 8000 steps… You are still doing great. Get my point?  I would say that being uber obsessive about any kind of fitness goal can backfire. I’ve been in this business for 30+ years and I do have a goal to move every day, I keep track of my workouts, but I don’t freak out if I don’t get 10,000 steps. Does that make sense.  And if someone wants to use it as their guideline -great -I’d much rather they walk 10,000 steps and sit on the couch but there is no major science behind it besides the fact that we know daily activity and walking is good for our health!!!  

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Love what @Chris_F shared and totally agree. It is wonderful to set goals to create some structure and build motivation in how we take care of our bodies and minds. But the real key in my eyes is having a clear WHY behind the goal that is meaningful to you and noticing how it feels in your WHOLE self. So if 10K steps is truly meaningful to you and makes you feel good in your body, mind and energy -- heck yes, go do it! If you're craving a different form of movement or self-care the next day, listen to that too.


It's so important to leave space for things to evolve. Our bodies and minds show up differently each day and in each season of our lives and learning to honor that has been my own biggest learning curve. For me, the most impactful thing I've started doing for my health and wellbeing is taking time each day to pause, tune in and listen to what my body and mind are asking for -- "what do my body and mind need TODAY?" Some days it's a strong workout to feel my power, some days it's 20 minutes of releasing yoga flow and breathwork, and other days it's just letting my body truly rest. And when I'm really honest and really listening, I truly feel my best.


Hi MollJ84


I used to own a Fitbit and let me tell you it was impossible to reach the 10000 step count most days. What I felt Fitbit wasn’t counting was the exercise I was doing that didn’t count as steps: strength training, indoor cycling, etc. 


Even Fitbit has now moved away from this concept and you can set a goal to have a certain amount of active zone minutes a day. I highly recommend this as a goal over a step count. 

I would keep goals in minutes, the recommended number for a healthy heart is 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity workouts or 75 minutes per week of vigorous activity.


Aim to be active 30 minutes everyday and you’re well on your way to meeting goals to stay healthy. 


Thanks for the Times article. I didn't know the plateau is 7,500 - you learn something new every day.


I think it comes down to being your best judge on whether or not you're getting [net] joy out of the walks and eachothers time. It's tough not to get obsessive with the numbers - and 10,000 sounds way cooler than 7,500. I would practice (or suggest to your partner) not using the watch every few walks to be exposed to a mindset where you don't need numbers to validate the accomplishment or hold up your mood.


Be your best judge!




I'm so glad this is being talked about. I'm going to piggyback on what the other guides have said and share some info from the PT standpoint in terms of actual health benefits! @Chris_F is right in that it really did start in Japan with a wearable lol! Also @Dani_P spot on with the mental health and what works for you aspect.


Since this has gotten so much hype over the years, there's been a lot of research that looks into whether 10K steps is actually a realistic goal. A summary of what the research shows that I think may be worth noting:


  • Yes, 10K steps over a 12-week period (going up in ~2,000 steps per week or so) has been shown to decrease anxiety and improve physical well-being.
  • Most people actually have a 4,000 step DEFICIT from this... and need to seek to actively make up 3-6K steps to meet this goal (thru sports or activity). 
  • Healthy adults take anywhere from 4,000 to 18,000 steps a day... so there's a huge range and 4K IS STILL healthy!
  • There is a difference in cadence and intensity levels... so more steps doesn't necessarily match energy expenditure accurately
  • Focusing on counting steps may lead to an obsessive attitude toward exercise. Excessive walking and physical activity may lead to certain health problems. 

As you can see, the overarching conclusions are SOME>None... if you feel like 10k is unrealistic, that's because it kinda is if you're not actively trying to achieve it, steps don't always mean a successful workout/energy expenditure... and also...  be careful it doesn't turn into a counterintuitive habit. (I get it, some people thrive off the competition and the number chasing, but it can definitely be harmful for others.) Hopefully this helps with understanding what's actually worth it or not!