5,000? 10,000? 15,000? How Many Steps Should Older Adults Take Each Day to Stay Healthy?

March 21, 2022

Do you check how many steps you’ve taken during the day? I do. I aim at 10,000, but if I miss it I walk around the house a few times until I hit that mark. I often walk around the block twice before putting my letter in the mailbox. I even walk down to the next floor for the bathroom instead of using the one on my floor. I hope I’m not the only one who is this gaga about step counting!

At the mall, in the park, on the street, it seems everyone is counting steps. Do you use a smartphone app or do you have a pedometer? Or do you simply count in your head? That’s probably a good idea – I mean, you have heard of brain jogging, right? Though it is something else entirely, any activity that connects our heart and our head can’t be all that bad - it can improve our mental health as well as our physical health.

Do you count the steps you take at home or only those you take outside? How many steps do we need to stay healthy? Are men walking more than women? What are the benefits of walking for seniors? There is an old saying: "You can't understand another person's experience until you've walked a mile in their shoes." So, how many steps are there in a mile, anyway? Are you ready to walk and find out?

“One type of exercise alone can't achieve all fitness goals—building strength takes a targeted workout, and flexibility often requires a different kind of physical activity, such as stretching or yoga. But overall conditioning can start with a simple movement, like walking.” Parent Giving 

We are Made for Walking so Lace Up Those Shoes!

Who doesn’t love Nancy Sinatra’s great song “These Boots are Made for Walkin’?” While we wouldn’t suggest you walk too far in boots, walking is one of the easiest, most natural, and best ways of exercise we have. Why is that?

Walking is good for us.

We spend a lot of time sitting to eat, watching TV, working, socializing with friends, on the bus, in the car. We are sitters, and all that inactivity doesn’t exercise our lungs, heart, muscles, or joints. If we don’t use it, we may lose it.

  • Regular walking maintains mobility, motor skills, and coordination.
  • Running promotes blood circulation in the brain and thus prevents forgetfulness. There are also studies showing that seniors who are active in sports are less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease than their non-athletic peers.
  • Exercise maintains bone density and thus prevents osteoporosis and bone fractures.
  • Those who exercise in a running group prevent loneliness and isolation.
  • Running also improves mood in general, which fortunately is not only the case in old age.

Walking takes us places. 

From the bed to the kitchen to the store and back, walking gets us from A to B without spending a penny on gasoline or fancy tools and equipment. Every mile we walk we are taking between 2,000 and 2,500 steps – depending on the length of our stride and speed.

Walking is a great social activity.

You don’t need to walk alone. Walking in groups or with a friend is a great way to get in your steps while chatting. Before you know it, you’ll easily have your daily steps under your belt -- and less fat there too (maybe). Walking is also a great way to avoid getting bored!

Don’t stress: We walk every day without even thinking about it.

If you are sitting at a desk all day you still walk about 6,000 steps a day. If you are on your feet all day for work, then you are probably taking 20,000 steps a day. Next time, before you put on your walking shoes and go outside, see how many steps you are taking just walking around the house each day. It may surprise you!

Everybody walks differently.

If you aren’t walking as much as you like, don’t worry. Gender and age influence how much we walk too. We walk twice as much as kids as we do when we are over 18 years old (10,000 steps versus 5,000 steps), and men walk on average 10% more than women. 

Where you live also plays a role in how much you walk. Do you live in the country or the city? Do you have an elevator? Do you live in Hong Kong? Yes! People in Hong Kong walk 25% more steps a day than people living in the United States. (7,000 steps a day versus 5,000 steps).

*source for all these great numbers is: healthline.com/health/average-steps-per-day

Don’t run before you can walk.

Health Alert: I get it. We might not be able to walk as much as we want to due to health issues. Some of us simply cannot walk as much as we would like. I have days where the body says no. I’m sure you do too. If you are planning to walk after a sedentary period, please do talk with your doctor about how much walking is sensible for you.

“Walking is a type of exercise that almost everyone can do and comes with many health benefits. Not to mention the little-to-no strain on our body! Whether it's taking a longer walking route to the grocery store, walking (rather than driving) to visit a nearby friend, taking the stairs versus the elevator, or going on regular walks around your town (or in nature).” MoreLifeHealth

Can You Walk Too Much? How Many Steps are Right for Me?

You can always overdo a good thing. Even walking. Your body is always changing, and what it wanted to do ten years ago might be too much for it today. If you haven’t been walking regularly, start slow. Like they say, walk before you run!

You should ask your doctor how much exercise they advise you to do. Your body will tell you when you’ve hit your limit. Listen to it. So, how far should a 70-year-old walk every day? How far should an 80-year-old walk? In general, older adults walk less than younger adults for many reasons. If you can you should be aiming at walking a reasonable amount of steps -- which seems to be 6,000 steps for women and 6,600 steps for men each day. Remember some of those steps you already get at home! 

Exactly how many steps older adults should take depends on who you ask, and if you have a dog! Dogs are a great way to make sure you get your steps in and are a wonderful companion. Cats are not as fond of going for a walk.

How many steps? We have some suggestions for you:

“Seniors over the age of 65 should take about 7,000 steps spread throughout the day. A 30-minute walk corresponds to about 3,000 steps.” alzheimersdata.org

“We expect healthy older adults to take 6,000-8,500 steps a day.” US National Library of Medicine

“As the average number of steps taken per day increased, the risk of mortality decreased. But the effect peaked at around 7,500 steps.” aarp.org

“A new study found that older women, taking as few as 4,400 steps per day was significantly associated with lower risk of death compared to taking 2,700 steps per day.” sciencedaily.com

Smartphone or Wearable: How You Can Best Track Your Steps

Do you have a wearable step counter? Or is your pedometer (some people call it a step counter) on your phone? Maybe you just walk without the hassle of counting. Many people also count their calories when cooking too. That’s fine, as long as you walk and eat a healthy diet.

There are pros and cons of wearing a counter and having one on your phone. Probably the biggest drawback to using a device is your attention. We’re always curious and check our steps. That means we aren’t focusing on our movement. We are distracted and might trip. We should also focus on the moment so our mind and body can work together in harmony. 

Probably the biggest advantage to using a pedometer is that you can track your steps and motivate yourself to keep up a consistent daily amount of movement.

Pros and Cons to tracking our steps with a device:

Downside to Step Tracking Devices:

  • Devices cost money
  • Devices require batteries or need to be charged
  • Devices can break -- especially if dropped outside
  • Devices take away our attention
  • Some devices track only hip movement
  • Everyone’s strides and speed are different so measurement may be off
  • We can become too dependant on step apps and social media

Upside to Step Tracking Devices:

  • Tracks our fitness for our doctor and ourselves
  • Seeing the number can be motivational
  • Tracks other health measurements like calories and heart rate
  • Connects well with music or audiobook apps
  • Makes a great gift to start someone walking
  • Easy to wear or carry
  • Step phone apps are usually free

Are You Ready to Walk?

How many steps will you take today? What are the average steps for elderly walkers? Get together with your friends and find out. We’d love to know! Then go ahead and share this with your friends. Want to read more articles like this? We invite you to subscribe to our newsletter where we send weekly emails with helpful and fun articles

Senior Living FYI

Go Live Your Best Life!

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