How Far Does the Average American Walk In a Day?

July 8th 2015

A month ago, I started running four to five times per week, and I almost immediately started seeing results. I have lost weight all over, toned up, and developed a healthier, high-protein diet. I also shook up my sedentary routine, which we know can be very damaging to one's health. After a recent 2-mile run, I couldn't help considering how much additional exercise I get by walking from point A to B each day.

Unsurprisingly, it's likely not a whole lot, especially since I live in Los Angeles, where nobody walks. As the New York Times explained in 2010, it is common for the health community to encourage people to walk 10,000 steps per day, which is about five miles. Researchers say it takes roughly 2,000 steps to reach a mile. But the average American only walks about half the recommended amount of 10,000 steps, according to Catrine Tudor-Locke, director of the Walking Behavior Laboratory at Pennington Biomedical Research Center. Last year, she told Live Science that your typical American takes about 5,900 steps a day.

The U.S. is also miles behind other countries, according to a Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise study that looked at the two-day pedometer results of different adults in 2003. This earlier research found Americans only took took 5,117 steps a day while the average in western Australia was nearly 9,700, the average in Switzerland was 9,650, and the average in Japan was 7,168.

“It did surprise me that Americans were that sedentary,” study lead Dr. David R. Bassett Jr. told the New York Times. “A person is typically considered sedentary if they take less than 5,000 steps per day.”

A 2004 study in the same journal found that Amish folks, on the other hand, are lapping everyone in the U.S. in terms of steps per day. Male adults in Amish farming communities took more than 18,000 steps and female Amish people averaged more than 14,000 daily.

“These latest values are about one-third of what Amish people take in farming communities,” Bassett said. “It really does suggest to us that there’s been a tremendous decline in the last century and a half in the amount of walking people do.”

If getting in 10,000 steps per day is too drastic a change from your current step count, then don't overexert yourself to achieve this. Dr. Clay Marsh told Live Science last year that staying active is most important.

"We just want people to get up, and get started," Marsh told the publication. "Any amount of activity that you can do today that you didn’t do yesterday, you're probably going to start benefiting from it."

Here's what some Twitter users say about getting 10,000 steps in per day:

The Walking Site also has some tips to increase your daily step count:

  • Walk the dog
  • Use the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Get up to change the channel
  • Plan a walking meeting
  • Get outside to walk around the garden or do a little weeding

Share your opinion

Do you worry about leading a sedentary lifestyle?

No 22%Yes 78%