New Study Says We Should Aim for 15,000 Steps a Day, Not 10,000

Close up shot of young sportswoman using smartwatch to track her workout performance. Fitness female monitoring her progress on smartwatch.

We’ve long been told that we should be aiming to walk 10,000 steps a day. For years, that has been the magical number that paints the picture of optimal physical health. But a new study suggests that we may need to add an extra 5,000 steps into our day and should in fact be aiming for 15,000 steps in total.

The study

Researchers at the University of Warwick England analyzed a group of postal workers in Glasgow, Scotland who carried mail by foot as well as office workers who sat for the majority of the day. Participants wore an activity tracker all day both on and off the job. The group of postal workers periodically had their body mass index (BMI), waist size, cholesterol profile, and blood sugar levels measured throughout the study, all of which are risk factors for heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States.

The results

Based on the data collected from the activity trackers, the scientists behind the study calculated how many hours each day the volunteers spent sitting or on foot, as well as how many total steps each participant took per day. The postmen that spent most of the day being sedentary were found to have higher BMIs, larger waistlines, poor blood sugar, and less than ideal cholesterol levels as compared to those that were frequently walking around and actively delivering mail.

After five hours, every additional hour that workers spent sitting added .2% to their likelihood to developing heart disease. They were also able to conclude that nearly any amount of standing or walking reduced a worker’s chances of having the precursors to heart disease, which include a thicker waistline. But the greatest benefits were seen in the most active mail carriers. The postmen who walked for more than three hours a day and covered at least 15,000 steps, were shown to have normal BMIs, waistlines, and metabolic profiles. Essentially this meant that they had no heightened risk for obtaining heart disease. So ultimately, the study suggests that walking throughout the day is a great way to keep healthy and that the closer to 15,000 steps you can get, the better.

How to sneak 15,000 steps into your day

Walking 15,000 steps equates to roughly seven miles of walking a day. While that may sound intimidating, there are ways in which you can work to add extra steps into your routine. “It takes effort but we can accumulate 15,000 steps a day by walking briskly for two hours at about a four-mile-per-hour pace,” says DR. William Tigbe, a physician and public health researcher at the University of Warwick who led the study.

But not all of your steps have to be achieved at once. Here are some tips from professional fitness trainers on how to cram some extra walking distance into your schedule:

While 10,000 steps a day is a great fitness goal, experts say that we need the extra 5,000 to really benefit our health. Walking is a great workout, especially for those that hate the gym or don’t want to engage in exercises that are physically demanding on the knees and joints. And in addition to reducing your risk of heart disease, a walking session provides an array of benefits like improving your composition, reducing your risk of breast cancer, boosting your immune function, and lowering pain associated with arthritis.