10,000 Steps a Day: Not an Effective Method for Weight Loss

Updated on December 4, 2019
Lorra Garrick profile image

Former ACE-certified personal trainer Lorra Garrick has trained men & women for fat loss, muscle building, more strength and more fitness.

10,000 Steps a Day Doesn't Melt Off the Excess Fat

I'm a former personal trainer for Bally Total Fitness and have some enlightening facts for those who are wondering how effective the 10,000-steps-daily approach is for fat loss.

Adding more movement to your days should never be discouraged. But at the same time, it also needs to be understood as far as its benefits.

Getting Started With a Pedometer

If you have a desk job and don’t do regular workouts, then a pedometer approach will help get you started on the path to better health and fitness.

Tracking daily steps on a pedometer will give you objective feedback (assuming the device is of higher quality and actually does a good job of detecting steps).

Fat Loss From 10,000 Steps a Day

Elevation in heart rate goes along with extra calorie expenditure because when activity elevates your heart rate, this means your body is working harder than usual (more calories burned).

However, just plain walking at your everyday pace from point A to point B, without inclines (e.g., the corridors at your workplace aren’t inclined), rarely sends heart rate into a training zone.

Even a sedentary person will quickly reach a plateau when merely relying on accruing 10,000 steps a day for weight loss.

Some Employees Take Thousands of Steps on the Job

Obesity (as well as moderate degrees of excess weight) and lack of physical conditioning clearly affect people in jobs that require significant walking:

  • medical,
  • teaching,
  • sales/retail,
  • security,
  • food services,
  • and labor, to name a few.

People in these professions do not have an unusually high rate of slimness or fitness.

Why Even 15,000 Regular Steps a Day Won’t Melt Off Fat

In order to force your body to burn excess fat for fuel, you must subject it to a training stimulus that it’s not accustomed to.

There’s nothing physically stressful about amassing 10,000 mere pitter-patters a day. Compare this to a rigorous step aerobics class or an uphill hike for an hour that increases heart rate and respiration, making your skin gleam with sweat.

Simply accumulating 10,000 steps will not force your body to plunge into fat reserves, the way a spin or “cardio kickboxing” class will (along with a strength training program).

Getting in 8,000 to 10,000 steps a day is easy to do for the typical, able-bodied person. When that person fails to accomplish this, it isn’t due to exhaustion. It’s because that individual got too busy to remember to do it or felt there wasn’t enough time.

And when all those steps do get taken, they’re usually spread out over the entire day. From a physiological standpoint, this is pretty easy to pull off, leaving the body with little to recuperate from, and therefore, no reason for your body to dip into enough stored fat for fuel to incite weight loss!

Sore, Aching Feet Don’t Mean Hard Work

Don’t let feet that are aching at day’s end fool you into thinking that your body was getting worked out all day long.

In a person free of foot pathology (e.g., plantar fasciitis or peripheral vascular disease), aching feet result from improper footwear (such as all day in pointy, heeled shoes or dress boots) and are not a barometer for how efficient, effective, or strenuous “all that walking” was.

Does This Mean Throw Out the Pedometer?

A pedometer gives you a goal to shoot for every day, a reminder to avoid becoming sedentary. But this little tool is an adjunct to a fitness regimen, not a be-all-end-all.

In addition to the pedometer approach, get in some walking lunges, jump on and off a step in the house, or bolt up and down your staircase for 10 nonstop minutes (which won’t be possible for de-conditioned people; they should aim for one nonstop minute, then build stamina over time).


Don't Rely on a Pedometer

Relying on a pedometer can take on an obsessive component, gnawing at the person all day long.

The pedometer approach is a great way to ensure that you’re getting in your minimum step quota since the human body was designed to be upright and moving all day rather than sitting at a desk job or in front of a TV.

But it’s not the ticket to substantial body fat loss. It’s also not a long-term solution for a high or even moderate level of fitness.

Advantage of a Pedometer

  • It gets people moving and conscious of excessive sitting.
  • They can see progress over time (increased step tally).
  • Morbidly obese people will experience some improved mobility.

Drawbacks to Pedometers

The program needs to be progressive. If you walk the same distance every day, expect your results, if any, to plateau. When distance or number of steps cannot be increased, due to time constraints, then this leaves intensity as the only other adjustable variable.

But how does one increase intensity while walking from point A to point B on the job? For instance, if you’re a server, you can walk only so quickly at the workplace, and certainly can’t bunny-hop from table to table to increase intensity.

But if you work in a building, you may be able to:

  • Lunge-walk down corridors—if you’re dressed appropriately.
  • Trot down corridors (with proper footwear).
  • Walk as fast as possible wherever you are, tossing in some high knees.
  • Pump your arms hard when you walk and hold hand weights when possible.
  • Avoid elevators and take stairs two steps at a time.

Walking is one of the lowest calorie burners (unless done on hills or inclines, with hand weights employing various arm movements; or at a very brisk pace). People get false hope that walking 10,000 typical steps a day is going to keep excess fat at bay.

Closing Thoughts

  • The pedometer approach is a stepping stone to a more structured exercise regimen.
  • A lot of something that doesn’t elevate heart rate will not produce enough of a training effect to lose all the weight you’d like to. In addition, you must add group fitness classes, hikes, running, etc., along with strength training.
  • 10,000 steps every day will help counter the negative effects of prolonged sitting.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


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