I've been walking 10,000 steps a day for a year – here are five unexpected benefits I've experienced

TechRadar fitness writer Harry Bullmore on a walk with his dog
(Image credit: Future / Harry Bullmore)

HIIT and running are often seen as the default options for getting in shape. But, as a fitness writer, the hill I’m willing to die on is that I believe many people would see greater benefits from simply walking more. 

And that’s not just for the reasons you might expect, like cardio gains or weight management. As someone who’s walked at least 10,000 steps every day for the last year, I’ve found it comes with some less-publicized perks too. 

Here are some of the benefits that persuaded me to strap on my fitness tracker and make 10,000 steps a daily habit. 

Benefits I experienced from walking 10,000 steps a day

TechRadar fitness writer Harry Bullmore walking with his dog

(Image credit: Future / Harry Bullmore)

1. It makes me feel good

This is at the top of the list for a reason – I think it’s the most important factor. 

Having grown up in the countryside, I’ve always noticed a positive relationship between the amount of time I spend outside and my happiness – it's a bonus if my surroundings are predominantly green. 

I now work from home in a city, and the best indicator of how many hours I spend at my laptop comes in the form of two rounded imprints in my office chair. Walking offers a welcome change of scene, and a chance to unwind. 

While 10,000 steps isn’t a necessary number to hit for most health benefits (more on this at the bottom of the page), I find it matches pretty well with my mood. 

If I’m starting to feel fidgety or cooped up in the afternoon, a quick check of my Apple Watch Ultra 2 usually shows that I’m off-pace to reach that figure. If that’s the case, I’ll let my dog drag me to the nearby park for a short jaunt, and I'll inevitably feel a lot better for it. 

TechRadar fitness writer Harry Bullmore on a walk with his dog

(Image credit: Future / Harry Bullmore)

2. I enjoy it

How often have you heard the phrase “I have to go for a run”? It can often be seen as a burden – wobbly foundations for developing a hobby or habit.

I’ve found there’s less pressure or preparation around walking, which can make it more enjoyable – you simply lace up your shoes and away you go.

I like stacking it with other activities I find fun too. This might involve making it a social thing by inviting a friend, exploring a new place, or even squeezing some gaming in with apps like Pokemon Go. As long as you’re having a good time, happy days. 

Walking for enjoyment might sound a bit similar to my first point, but there’s a reason why I’m laser-focused on prioritizing exercise that makes you feel good. 

I’ve been training in gyms, parks, garages, and the occasional shed for more than a decade now, experimenting with a huge range of exercise styles. Time and time again, I’ve found the exercises that earn a regular spot in my life are those I enjoy most – for me, that’s lifting weights, walking, gymnastics, soccer, and most recently padel

If you like something, you’re going to keep doing it, particularly if it’s free. And if you’re exercising consistently, you’re going to see results. That’s why I think walking is one of the underrated forms of exercise there is. 

TechRadar fitness writer Harry Bullmore walking with his dog

(Image credit: Future / Harry Bullmore)

3. It's a versatile way to get your fitness fix

The 10,000 steps a day total can sound pretty intimidating and unattainable. When I first strapped an old-school Fitbit to my wrist back in 2016 (you'll want to check out our guide to the best Fitbits if you're thinking of getting into walking), I put a big focus on longer walks and repeatedly fell short of this goal. 

Since then, I’ve found “exercise snacking” to be a more effective approach, squeezing in digestible snippets of mood-boosting movement throughout the day. This might mean answering a few work emails in the morning while meandering around the park, doing errands on foot where possible, or using a bus stop slightly further away from my house if I’m running early.

Unlike a trip to the gym or sports practice, you don’t need an outfit change or any specialist equipment either. This means you can make great strides towards your goal whenever, wherever, without derailing your regular schedule. 

4. It helps me focus

Subjectively, I’ve always found physical activity and getting outside helps me to focus. Without a bout of morning exercise, my mind is usually racing at a million miles per hour, and I struggle to knuckle down to the tasks at hand, whether that’s work or otherwise. 

This was exacerbated when I started working from home in 2020, as the time I’d naturally spend outside dwindled. There was no longer a commute bookending each work day, or any extra incentive to leave the building I was working in during my lunch break. 

To counter this, I like to make time for regular movement, and walking is one of my go-to options. It's helped my productivity to skyrocket, and leaves me far less susceptible to the usual distractions like doomscrolling. 

Science seems to agree with my theory. An article from Harvard Medical School includes a lengthy list of the benefits exercise can have for the mind, including improving your mood, sleep, memory and thinking skills, while also reducing stress and anxiety. 

TechRadar fitness writer Harry Bullmore on a walk with his dog

(Image credit: Future / Harry Bullmore)

5. It can improve your fitness

It’s important to stress that walking isn’t the only form of exercise I do. For me, training is a hobby, so in a week I’ll usually do multiple strength-training, gymnastics, Olympic weightlifting and running sessions. 

Strength training in particular offers immense bang for your buck, and I'd recommend it to anyone – a strong body is a fit, functional and robust one, able to handle the rigors of everyday life with minimal risk of injury. 

But I still always make time for walking, because it has an enormous impact on my health, mood and mind. 

For example, regular movement and desk breaks help fend off tight hips and lower back pain, which can be a side-effect of excessive sitting (a Pilates instructor recommends these five moves to undo the damage of sitting at a desk all day). 

Brisk walking can also help to build up your aerobic capacity (how well your body takes in and uses oxygen), allowing you to tackle daily tasks like running for the bus or playing with your kids with greater ease. This is particularly true for those who are newer to fitness, although regular exercisers may need a more challenging activity to see changes in this area. 

Walking is a handy weight-management tool as well. If weight loss is your goal, you need to be in a calorie deficit, meaning you’re burning more calories than you consume. Walking fires up many of the largest muscles in your body, like those in your legs, leading to elevated calorie burn, and combined with an appropriate diet, this can play a part in weight loss. 

For these reasons and more, I think a decent dose of walking belongs in pretty much any healthy, active lifestyle. 

TechRadar fitness writer Harry Bullmore on a walk with his dog

(Image credit: Future / Harry Bullmore)

How many steps a day should you do?

We've established that upping the number of steps you take each day can have plenty of positive impacts, but you don’t need to hit the heralded 10,000 figure to enjoy the many benefits of walking. That lofty total stems from a Japanese pedometer from the 1960s called the manpo-kei, which roughly translates as “10,000 steps meter”. 

An article from the University of Granada claims this figure “had no scientific basis”. The university conducted a study which concludes that “if we focus on the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, most of the benefits are seen at around 7,000 steps.” 

It later states that 8,000 steps per day will “significantly reduce the risk of premature death,” with lead author Francisco Ortega adding: “We’ve shown for the first time that the more steps you take, the better, and that there is no excessive number of steps that has been proven to be harmful to health.”

Meanwhile, a 2022 meta-analysis published in the Lancet Public Health journal found: “Taking more steps per day was associated with a progressively lower risk of all-cause mortality, up to a level that varied by age [6,000-8,000 in those aged 60 and up, and 8,000-10,000 in people younger than 60].” 

These are solid rules of thumb to work with, but I’d also encourage you to find out what works for you. Everyone is different, with varying genetics, routines, commitments and fitness levels, so what works for one person may not be a good fit for another. 

The human body, incredible as it is, adapts to the demands you place on it – and just by upping the amount you walk each day you’re likely to experience some positive changes. 

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Harry Bullmore
Fitness & Wearables writer

Harry is a huge fan of picking things up, putting them down again and writing about it, which uniquely qualifies him for the position of fitness and wearables writer with TechRadar. 

He’s an NCTJ-qualified journalist with a degree in English and journalism and several years’ experience covering the health and fitness beat. This has involved writing for the likes of Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Runner’s World, Fit&Well, Live Science and Coach. 

Harry is passionate about all things exercise-related, having spent more than a decade experimenting with a wide range of training styles. He's used strength training, bodybuilding, Pilates, powerlifting, gymnastics, rowing, yoga, running, calisthenics, CrossFit and more to build a fit, functional body (and have fun while doing it). 

When he’s not writing or training, he can usually be found racing his dog Archie up scenic hills in the south west of England or working to complete his NASM-certified personal trainer qualification.