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The truth about daily step targets

When starting their health and fitness journey, a lot of people think that they need to hit the magic ‘10,000 steps per day’ target in order to see results. However, this number alone really doesn’t mean anything, and without the context of your own lifestyle, activity level, and goals, it really is just a random number that’s been popularised by tracking devices like Fitbits and Apple watches. 

While aiming for more daily movement is great for your overall health and increasing energy output, how many steps you actually need will depend on your current activity level, your energy intake (how much you eat), your goals (fat loss or muscle gain), and your lifestyle. For example, if you’re currently only getting 3,000 steps per day while working in an office, then it’s unrealistic and unnecessary for you to start aiming for 10,000 steps a day straight away. Instead, you may only need to increase this to 5-6K steps a day to start seeing results. 

So, how many steps per day should you be getting? Use these tips to help you find out!

  • If your main goal is fat loss: 
  • Hitting a higher daily step target can be beneficial to help you increase your energy deficit by increasing your energy output. As you diet, your NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) naturally decreases, meaning your overall energy expenditure will also decrease. Having a consistent daily step target is a great way to combat this, and will ensure that your energy output doesn’t decrease significantly. Start by aiming for 8-10K steps per day, and increase from there when/if needed. Keep in mind that you can also use other forms of cardio instead of steps, such as swimming, elliptical, stair-master, or bike sessions. 

  • If your main goal is muscle gain:
  • Hitting a daily step target isn’t as important if your main goal is muscle building. While some form of daily movement is still important for overall health, you don’t need to be as focused on hitting a certain number. You also don’t want your energy output to be too high during a building phase, as this will only increase the amount of food you have to eat in order to maintain a surplus. Simply aim for an amount of steps that feels natural for you and easy for you to maintain (this could be anywhere from 6-10K depending on your job/lifestyle etc)

  • If you don’t have a body composition related goal:
  • You don’t necessarily need a daily step target if you don’t have any body composition related goals. Simply aim for an amount of daily movement that feels good for you and your body. This could be 1 daily walk, or another form of low intensity cardio. 

    Remember, steps are only 1 way of getting your movement in, and if you don’t enjoy them or they don’t work with your lifestyle, then there are other ways you can improve your overall health or increase your energy output without them! Find a form of cardio that works for you (and that you enjoy) and don’t get too caught up in the hype around a specific step target. 

    Soph xx