What are Health Benefits of Walking 20,000 Steps a Day?

Last Updated on October 5, 2021 by Michael Brockbank

Walking is one of the easiest exercises most people can do. After all, it’s our most reliable and primary form of transportation. As step trackers are exceedingly popular at the moment, many people strap on their shoes and hit the pavement for health. But what are some benefits of walking 20,000 steps in a day?

It really depends on many personal factors. Speed, stride, and overall health will contribute to what kind of benefits you’ll feel. On the other hand, walking of any kind has benefits regardless of how far you walk.

7 Benefits of Walking 20,000 Steps

In reality, 20,000 steps is quite a far distance. For me, 20,000 steps in a day would equal about 9.2 miles. Based on my average pace, it would take nearly three hours to reach this goal.

Coming from someone who works and plays at his computer, this is just unrealistic.

However, many people commit to it on a daily basis. What kinds of health benefits come with putting in the effort to walk more?

Burning Calories for Weight Loss

Walking is an easy way to burn off excess calories, fats, and carbs. Personally, I’ll burn just over 9 calories per minute of walking at a 3.5 mile-per-hour pace. To put this into perspective, I’ll burn 1.4 calories per minute just sitting at my desk being alive.

Theoretically, you could burn more than 2,000 calories for every 20,000 steps. I say “theoretically” because there are a lot of things that will cause this number to fluctuate. Speed, temperature, sustainable pace, and metabolic rate will contribute to how many calories you burn per step.

In reality, this is my average burn per minute walking around in the backyard. You will have a much different experience.

Any physical activity is going to benefit health and fitness. Whether you’re walking, jogging, or running 20,000 steps, it’s all about burning off what you consume.

Now, people will burn calories at a different rate. That’s because physical activity is influenced by things like age, height, weight, physical condition, and intensity.

For instance, someone who walks three miles in an hour will burn fewer calories than someone who will do it in 45 minutes.

How many steps per day do you have to walk to lose weight? That also depends on the foods you eat. You can’t expect to walk 20,000 steps and then eat half of a chocolate cheesecake.

However, walking does give you room to lose weight if you keep intake to proper portion sizes.

For me, I can burn one pound by walking for six hours. That’s not really feasible inside of a day, so I offset this by doing things like playing the Xbox Kinect or perhaps some house cleaning.

Reducing the Chance of Getting Sick

According to the British Journal of Sports Medicine, adults who were regularly active in aerobic activity were less likely to become sick due to upper respiratory tract infections.

However, the details regarding the aerobic activity are somewhat lacking. For instance, the study doesn’t break down which physical activities made the greatest improvement.

On the other hand, it does go to show how being active greatly reduces the risk of infection. Which goes along with why it seems physically fit people are often more energetic and less likely to take sick days from work.

The study demonstrates how there is an improvement between low and high levels of physical activity. No matter what kind of level of exercise you put in, there is a noticeable difference in health.

I’ve noticed this myself while working in a wide range of industries.

Improving Cardiovascular System

Cardio isn’t just good for losing weight quickly. It also improves the cardiovascular system, hence the name. This saved my life in 2017.

By the end of 2016, my heart was having a myriad of problems. And at one point, it stopped altogether. By increasing my walks both in distance and time, I corrected many of my problems.

For one thing, it doesn’t “flutter” several times a day like it used to.

The more often you get your heart rate up, the more it improves the cardiovascular system. And this doesn’t merely include walking. It’s literally any activity that increases your beats-per-minute beyond 100 and helps you work up a sweat.

Toning Legs, Butt, and Lower back

Walking 20,000 steps puts a lot of work on your legs, butt, and lower back. In fact, I was blown away by how firm my butt and legs feel after walking for six months in Los Angeles.

My friend laughs at me because I have a habit of feeling my ass. I’m sorry…to me it’s impressive and I geek out about it a little.

My point is that walking is a great way to tone up and firm the lower half of your body. You can even take it further by adding ankle weights or even a weighted vest.

This not only enhances the workout for muscles, but it also increases the number of calories you’ll burn by walking. As your muscles have to work that much harder, more energy is spent.

Improves Metabolism in Test Subjects

Studies suggest how walking more often improves the body’s metabolic rate. This doesn’t mean you can dive into that box of cupcakes after walking for an hour, but it does improve how you process food.

Of course, the data for the aforementioned study was centered around middle-aged people. But in reality, there’s nothing to suggest that it couldn’t have a similar effect on a younger participant.

Besides, keeping active is how a lot of 20-somethings stay in shape regardless if they walk 20,000 steps or not.

Boosts Brain Processing Power

Want to give your brain a bit of power? Start going for regular walks and work yourself into a sweat. In fact, studies show how exercise of any kind is beneficial for brain development…especially in the young.

A lot of people will get in a good morning workout to start their day. For many, it improves things like being more alert, rational, and focused on projects.

For me, I’ve noticed a significant difference in productivity and focus after playing tennis on the Xbox in the mornings.

The more blood and oxygen you get to the brain, the better it performs. What better way to do this than to elevate the heart so it pumps more throughout the body?

Although most of these improvements are more obvious after intense workouts, walking more often also benefits the brain in a similar manner.

Elevates the Mood

Boosting the processing power of the brain is only part of the mental improvements. Physical activity also leads to enhancing your overall moods. This is because of the endorphins that begin to flood your system.

The harder you push yourself physically, the more endorphins are released.

Many therapists will prescribe exercise routines over antidepressant drugs. For a lot of people, this works just as well without the side effects of medication.

If you’re one of those people like myself who dislike the idea of taking mood-altering chemicals, walking 20,000 steps in a day is probably a good alternative.

It is for me, anyway. I’ve noticed a big change in mental health after putting effort into walking and exercising more.

How Can You Get 20,000 Steps in a Day?

Walking

So, what can you do to get 20,000 steps in a day? After all, not everyone has enough time to trek 9 miles in a 16-hour window of being awake.

Take me, for example. I work at a desk for eight hours a day and then play games for several hours afterward on Twitch. What can I do to get more steps in?

1. Hourly Walks

If you want to reach 20,000 steps and reap some of the benefits of walking, you’ll need to walk at least 1,250 steps every hour for 16 hours. For me, this is about 10 to 13 minutes of a good pace around the backyard.

Unfortunately, this isn’t doable for a lot of people. In fact, I am lucky to hit 10,000 on an average day. However, getting up every hour and walking around is good to get a few steps as well as stretch the legs.

Too long in one position isn’t exactly healthy, and getting up every hour to walk helps.

2. Increase Walking Speed

If you’re short on time, try to improve your walking speed. The more steps you can take during your walk, the better. If you have 20 minutes to spare, see how far you can get in 10 minutes before returning.

I like to gamify as much as possible. Making the experience fun for me is breaking personal records, which is why I use Exercise.com to keep track of my stats.

When I really push myself, I can walk at a maintainable pace of 4mph before it turns into a jog.

3. Go for Longer Walks

If you don’t have to worry about time, start planning longer walks. Again, you might find it fun if you aim to break your personal records.

If you’re just starting, don’t try to push yourself into a 5k. No one is expecting you to go the distance, and your body may not be able to keep up. I fractured both my feet while weighing more than 280 pounds and walking a 5k marathon.

The spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak.

Ease yourself into longer distances. Before you realize it, you’ll be going greater distances before you even work up a sweat.

Roughly, 20,000 steps is equal to around 9 miles. This will also depend on the stride of your step. Someone who is shorter will take more steps to reach 9 miles than someone who is taller.

So, if you’re planning for longer walks, consider your own pace.

4. Jog Instead for 20,000 Steps a Day

Jogging will quickly increase your heart rate. In turn, it will also increase the amount of fat you burn as opposed to a simple walk. At any rate, you’ll gain more steps in a day if you can increase your speed.

The idea is that it’ll take less time to reach 20,000 steps in a day if you’re moving faster. The trade-off for benefits, though, is that jogging is a bit more difficult to maintain than walking.

What if you’re not in the best of shape to go for a long jog?

Start off slow and work your way up. Since you’re not currently running a marathon, you don’t need to focus on distance running. Start with a simple jog around the block and keep going if you’re feeling comfortable enough.

Each week, try to increase your distance. Add another block, or see if you can reach the next light over. Set a milestone for yourself that is realistic to your physical abilities.

5. Watch Some Netflix from a Treadmill

This is a suggestion from one of the commentors in the section below, and it’s one you’ll probably see a lot of in gyms. Put something engaging on TV or your phone and walk on the treadmill.

A lot of us wind up wasting a ton of time sitting in front of the computer or lounging on the couch watching Netflix, YouTube, or Hulu. Why not keep yourself in motion while watching your favorite show?

It will take your mind off of the physical aspect while you engross yourself in the entertainment. Plus, you can easily crank out quite a few steps without even realizing it for your daily total.

Now, I wouldn’t suggest engrossing yourself in watching a show while walking around outside. That’s how you accidentally run into things or cross busy streets. But setting your phone or tablet up on the treadmill with a pair of headphones can work wonders.

This is part of why you’ll see treadmills at gyms with built-in displays or facing the television. You’re more likely to continue an activity as long as you don’t view it as boring.

In this case, it’s walking while gaining the benefits of boosting your health.

6. Play Around on Social Media from a Treadmill

This goes along with watching something on TV or from your phone. But, I know a lot of people who will spend quite a bit of time scrolling through Twitter or Facebook while walking on the treadmill.

I guess it’s safer than doing so walking on the sidewalk.

At any rate, the idea is to keep your mind occupied with an activity that really engages you. Why not share an image of you walking on the treadmill to Instagram? I’ve seen influencers do worse things, to be honest.

Walking is Good for Body, Mind, and Soul

Not everyone can handle 20,000 steps in a day, and that’s OK. A lot of variables come into play when trying to reach nearly 10 miles. For me, it’s time.

However, increasing the number of steps you do in a day will have a positive impact on you whether it’s physical toning, cognitive thought or feeling good about the world.

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Michael Brockbank

Since 2015, Michael has put in the effort to lose more than 80 pounds by gamifying fitness and eating proper portion sizes. He conducts extensive research into various health and fitness products to provide the best answers possible according to his own experience and knowledge.

5 thoughts on “What are Health Benefits of Walking 20,000 Steps a Day?

  • October 8, 2020 at 11:34 am
    Permalink

    I know this article is a couple years old, but I average 28,000 steps per day. The easiest way to do this is working on a treadmill desk as it takes no time away from your work day. I know that is not an option for everyone, but a fantastic one for those that can do it.

    Reply
    • October 8, 2020 at 12:22 pm
      Permalink

      That’s a good method. Though, it wouldn’t work in my office as I have just enough space for what I do. 🙂

      But, it’s definitely worth checking out for those who have the room.

      Thank you for the input.

      Reply
  • June 28, 2020 at 12:22 am
    Permalink

    I actually get around 20,000 steps most days. These would be my tips:

    1) Get up very early in the morning (I get up at 5am) and get those steps in! By 8pm I have 16,000 steps in….and the rest I get over the course of the day.

    2) You can watch youtube or netflix on your phone while you walk (which is what you’d be doing anyway if you were home) and that makes the time go by faster.

    3) Don’t give yourself the option not to do it (this is why rolling out bed and going straight out work…no time to think about NOT doing it).

    Reply
    • June 28, 2020 at 12:59 am
      Permalink

      That’s a good plan. Though, at the moment, it’s incredibly difficult to squirrel away that much time for myself. Lot’s of extenuating circumstances get in the way of a lot of stuff at the moment. For instance, I already get very little sleep as it is. But, as soon as I can get things stabilized, I do plan on getting more in the day. Thank you for the comment, though.

      Reply

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