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Q&A: Fitness Trackers and Your Daily Step Count

If I wear a fitness tracker, how much should I focus on filling my "daily activity goal" and how can I make sure I’m not overtraining?

Many people may be intimated by hearing 10,000-step goals when first using a fitness tracker. Let’s be honest, 10,000 is a BIG number! If your goal is to complete a 10K race, you will take around 10,000 steps in the race alone.

If you are nowhere near walking this much prior to using a fitness tracker, I don’t suggest initiating your fitness program at the final goal. The truth is, any amount of activity beyond what you are currently doing will likely benefit your health.

Start out by calculating how many steps you take in a normal day. If you take about 5,000 steps a day to start, make short-term goals like adding an extra 30-minute walk, or taking an extra 1,000 steps daily for one week at a time. Then you can gradually build up to your long-term goal of 10,000 steps. Remember: Goals are not set in stone.

If you reach your goal and feel great that day, it does not mean stop walking for the rest of the day. Similarly, if you are having pain one day, do not push through pain just to maintain your goal. Goals can be altered to avoid injury. Let pain be your judge as far as how you progress.

According to Catrine Tudor-Lock, director of the Walking Behavior Laboratory at Pennington Biomedical Research Center, the average U.S. adult walks about 5,900 steps daily. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 150 minutes of moderate activity, such as brisk walking, per week; this would correlate to about 7,000–8,000 steps daily.

That being said, there have been many studies that show health benefits for individuals who have increased their daily walking to at least 10,000 steps daily. These numbers help to show you that while 10,000 may be a long-term goal, you can still gain benefits with short-term goals.


Jeanna LeClaire Hill

Jeanna LeClaire Hill, PT, DPT, ATC, CSCS, USAW-L1SP, is a doctor of physical therapy and certified athletic trainer at HSS Spine & Sport in Jupiter, FL. She graduated magna cum laude from Towson University with a Bachelor of Science degree in athletic training and earned her doctorate in physical therapy from the University of Maryland School of Medicine. She is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, CrossFit Level 1 Trainer, co-owner of CrossFit Waterway, and a USA Weightlifting Level 1 Sports Performance Coach.

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