Understanding the Importance of Daily Step Count and How Many Steps Make Up a Mile
Most smartphones log your daily steps. iPhone users can access this data in their phone’s Health app. It will also give you your daily, weekly, monthly, half-yearly, and yearly step count. If you look hard and long enough, you’ll find these features tucked away somewhere in Android phones, too.
But why are the number of steps I take each day so important, you ask? Daily step count is one of the most accessible methods to monitor and set physical activity goals. A lack of physical activity can hamper your overall health. A study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found an inverse dose-response relationship between daily steps and health outcomes such as all-cause mortality, cardiovascular events, and type 2 diabetes. (1)
Many people have heard about the 10,000-steps-a-day goal. The biggest advantage of this challenge is that most people cannot complete it in a single session. You’ll have to break it into smaller sessions throughout the day, ensuring constant physical activity. While the 10,000 daily step goal is gaining popularity, only a few people know how many miles it includes.
I have worn a fitness tracker daily for the last three years and have invaluable step-counting data and insights to share with you. In this article, we will go over everything you need to learn about how many steps make up a mile (and much more). We have a lot to cover, so buckle up!
Calculating Steps in a Mile: A Step-by-Step Approach
Figuring out how many steps are in a mile really boils down to understanding your own stride length, which varies from person to person. Factors like height and walking speed play a significant role in this. Generally, an adult’s stride is about 2.1 to 2.5 feet long. So, on average, you’re looking at walking around 2,000 to 2,500 steps to hit that mile mark. If you’re on the shorter side, your steps might be a bit smaller, whereas the taller folks usually take bigger strides. And don’t forget, the way you naturally walk affects this too. (2)
Your steps per mile = Total distance in feet (5,280 feet in a mile) / Your stride length in feet
Here’s a simple way to figure out your steps per mile: Take the total distance in feet (that’s 5,280 feet for a mile) and divide it by your stride length in feet. For instance, let’s say your stride is 2.5 feet. You’d do the math like this: 5,280 divided by 2.5, which comes to about 2,112 steps per mile. And if you’re aiming for those famous 10,000 steps a day, you’re covering close to 4.73 miles.
I remember when I first tried measuring my stride length. I picked a set distance and counted each step I took. After reaching the end, I divided the total distance by my step count to find my average stride length. It was an eye-opener and really helped me understand my walking patterns better. If you walked 100 feet and it took you 40 steps, your stride length is 2.5 feet (100 divided by 40).
The most reliable source for your stride length is your iPhone Health app’s ‘Walking Step Length’ data source. The app will spit out your average walking step length in centimeters or inches. However, you must do some elementary-level arithmetic to convert the step length into stride length. Multiply your step length by two to get your stride length. Let’s say your walking step length is 64 cm (2.1 feet); your stride length will be 128 cm (4.2 feet). You can also get this data from Garmin or Fitbit apps.
Coach’s Tip: Avoid using generic ‘steps in a mile’ tables that don’t account for your height, gender, age, fitness level, and stride length. Calculating your stride length using the way explained above might require a little effort, but this will give you the most accurate results.
Variations for Different Activities: Walking, Running, Hiking
How many miles you cover by walking 10,000 steps can vary depending on the type of activity. Here is a lowdown on each:
Walking: Most people walk at a steady, moderate pace. Walking typically involves a shorter stride length than running, resulting in a higher step count per mile. Factors like walking speed, terrain, and individual fitness levels can further influence this number.
Running: Running can lead to very different steps per mile numbers. As you start running, you can log in more miles due to longer stride lengths, reducing the number of steps per mile. However, as fatigue starts to set in, your steps per mile will go up while the distance covered decreases. (3) Notably, running form and efficiency are crucial in determining the steps per mile. For instance, an average jogger might take around 1,700 steps in a mile, whereas a competitive runner might require fewer than 1,500 steps.
Hiking: Some people prefer hiking over going out for walks or running. Hiking is just as good as the other two activities detailed above. Remember, the goal is to stay active and choose activities that you can stick to for the long term. You don’t want to sign up for activities that don’t gel with your lifestyle. Doing so increases the risk of falling off your fitness journey. Hiking is different than running and walking. The uneven terrain, inclines and declines, and obstacles shorten the stride length, increasing the step count per mile. You must also consider factors like backpack weight, trail difficulty, and elevation changes. Hiking in a rugged mountainous area will differ significantly in step count compared to a gentle, rolling hill hike.
Coach’s Tip: If you want to zero down on your step count number, you must invest in a pedometer or a step-tracking app. I recommend choosing between an Apple Watch or a Garmin, as these two consider multiple variables and provide the most reliable data.
Knowing the differences in step counts for running, walking, and hiking is invaluable. It allows you to adjust your training intensity, set realistic goals, and track your progress accurately. Whether you’re aiming for 10,000 steps a day or training for a marathon, understanding how many steps make up a mile is essential. So, take the time to measure your stride length and start incorporating this knowledge into your fitness routine. Remember, every step counts towards a healthier and more active lifestyle.