The average number of steps required to run/walk a mile ranged from 1,064 steps for a pace of 6 minutes per mile in men to 2,310 steps for a walk of 20 minutes per mile in women. An interesting finding is that, on average, individuals took more steps while running (jogging) a 12-minute mile than while walking a 15-minute mile (1,951 steps vs. 1,935 steps, respectively). This finding is most likely related to the smaller distance between steps that people tend to take while jogging at a slower speed (12-minute mile) compared with walking at a 15-minute-per-mile pace. The number of steps that men and women took while walking a mile was significantly different. Thus, two sex-related prediction equations were developed for walking speeds. The number of steps that men and women took while running was significantly different at the faster speeds only, possibly because fewer women completed the faster 8- and 6-minute-per-mile runs. As a result, only one prediction equation was developed for running speeds to be used by both men and women.
We also examined whether height and leg length would influence the number of steps people took while walking a mile. Both height and leg length significantly impacted step count results, but only height impacted step count results for runners. No differences were found in the steps-per-mile predictions using either height or leg length. Thus, Table 3 presents 1-mile step count prediction equations based on pace (minutes per mile) and height (inches). An example of how to use these equations with a client is presented. The following computations are used to estimate the number of steps per mile and the number of miles a male client with a height of 5 ft 10 inches would have to walk to accumulate 10,000 steps if he typically walks at a pace of 16 minutes and 30 seconds per mile:
- Convert body height to inches. One foot equals 12 inches, so 5 ft 10 inches would be 70 inches [(5 × 12) + 10].
- Because 1 minute has 60 seconds, seconds need to be converted to minutes in decimal form (divide seconds by 60), and the minutes are added to it. In our example, a mile walked in 16:30 converts to 16.5 minutes [16 + (30 / 60)].
- Using the walking equation for men in Table 3, the estimated number of steps to walk a mile is computed as follows:
- Steps per 1-mile walk = 1,916 + [(63.4 × 16.5) − (14.1 × 70)] = 1,975 steps.
- Without taking into consideration any other daily walking or jogging/running activity, our client would need to walk 5.1 miles (10,000 / 1,975) to accumulate 10,000 steps at a pace of 16 minutes and 30 seconds per mile. Keep in mind, however, that most adults in the United States accumulate between 5,000 and 6,000 steps per day through activities of daily living. If your client also accumulates this many steps, he would only need to walk an additional 2.0 to 2.5 miles on most days of the week.
Thus, prediction equations in this study are specific to people with normal weight, and the accuracy of these equations may vary if a different pedometer model is used.
Health/fitness professionals need to be aware that there are many different pedometer models, and previous research has shown that variation in accuracy exists among pedometer brands (10). Furthermore, some pedometer models undercount steps in overweight or obese individuals. Pedometer tilt angle, waist circumference, and BMI affect pedometer accuracy (11). The pedometer used in this study was selected because of its accuracy in counting steps in individuals with normal weight. Thus, prediction equations in this study are specific to people with normal weight, and the accuracy of these equations may vary if a different pedometer model is used.
Using the prediction equations derived from our data, we developed Table 4 to help clients establish the estimated number of steps required to walk or run a mile at selected speeds. You may post this table in a visible area in your fitness facility or at the workplace to help motivate clients to increase their level of physical activity. Clients who regularly wear a pedometer and do not achieve the recommended 10,000 daily steps through activities of daily living alone may use these tables to determine the additional distance required to achieve this goal through a walking or jogging program.
Currently, healthy adults in the United States average between 5,000 and 6,000 steps per day, (12-14) a range of steps that fall in the "low active" category according to adult activity levels (7). Based on the physical activity recommendation that individuals accumulate 10,000 steps on a nearly daily basis, your client could reach or exceed the remaining steps (e.g., 4,000 to 5,000 steps) by participating in more structured moderate-to-vigorous walking or running activities.
Practitioners can now help their clients reach those remaining steps by specifying the distance to walk or run. It is important to remember that the number of steps taken per mile varies considerably depending on walking or running pace and, to a lesser extent, on sex. The faster a client walks or runs, the fewer the steps it takes to cover the distance. Thus, as health/fitness professionals, we need to be careful not to generalize the 10,000-daily step recommendation to all people. Clients in higher intensity programs take far fewer steps and less time to cover a given distance. Vigorous intensity exercise, however, provides better improvements in aerobic capacity and greater benefits in terms of coronary heart disease risk reduction and overall cardiovascular health (15).
Using a hypothetical example, if we accept a brisk pace of 15 minutes per mile as "moderate-intensity activity" (an equivalent oxygen uptake of 14.2 ml/kg per minute or 4 metabolic equivalents [METs], using ACSM prediction equations (5)), one can easily determine the additional number of steps that a client would need through higher intensity exercise to meet the equivalent of 10,000 steps per day.
For instance, a male client may meet the 10,000 daily step recommendation by accumulating 3,225 steps through activities of daily living and adding another 6,776 steps by walking 3.5 miles at a pace of 15 minutes per mile (1,936 × 3.5). If a second male client accumulates the same number of steps through activities of daily living but chooses to run 3.5 miles at a pace of 8 minutes per mile for exercise (an equivalent oxygen uptake of 43.7 ml/kg per minute or 12.5 METs), he would only accumulate 8,125 daily steps, that is, 3,225 through activities of daily living and 4,900 (1,400 × 3.5) through exercise. Although the second client seems to be short of the 10,000 daily step recommendation, he is meeting the 30-minute guideline of daily physical activity recommended by most national health/fitness organizations, and he is doing so through a high-intensity exercise program. Clients who are pressed for time, and choose to exercise at higher intensities, should not become discouraged if they do not meet the 10,000 daily step guideline. As a health/fitness professional, you can explain this concept to them and encourage them to maintain their current exercise program.
The vast amount of scientific evidence points to the fact that no current drug or medication provides as many health benefits as a regular program of physical activity. Pedometer use will most likely continue to increase in coming years to help people monitor and adhere to physical activity. Being able to quantify the distance required to accumulate 10,000 daily steps, and understanding the equivalent number of steps taken to meet this goal when exercising at faster speeds, can help clients meet daily activity goals to maintain recommended weight and attain substantial health and fitness benefits.
CONDENSED VERSION AND BOTTOM LINE
General physical activity guidelines to improve and maintain health encourage adults to accumulate a minimum of 10,000 steps on most days of the week. To estimate how far people need to go to accumulate 10,000 steps, clients often want to know how many steps it takes to walk or run a mile. We tested individuals at a walking pace of 20 and 15 minutes per mile and a running pace of 12, 10, 8, and 6 minutes per mile. The number of steps required to cover a distance of 1 mile varies considerably according to the selected walking or running pace. The average number of steps ranged from 1,064 steps for a pace of 6 minutes per mile in men to 2,310 steps for a walk of 20 minutes per mile in women. One-mile step count prediction equations based on sex, pace, and height were formulated from the various walking and running speeds. Health/fitness professionals, however, should be aware that clients who choose to exercise at higher intensities take far fewer steps and less time to cover a given distance and may actually derive greater health and fitness benefits than those who exercise at lower intensities. Thus, clients who choose to exercise at a high-intensity level may not need to achieve the daily 10,000-step count.
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Keywords:© 2008 American College of Sports Medicine
Pedometer; Steps per Mile; Predicting 1-Mile Step Count; 10,000 Daily Steps; Physical Activity