How Many Steps Are in a Mile—and Why That Even Matters

·4 min read

WHETHER YOU'RE A muscle-bound weightlifter, a lithe yogi, or just an everyday dad just looking to stay healthy, you could probably use a little more ambulatory movement—or more simply stated, walking—in your life.

So you don't just think we're grumpy hardliners demanding that everyone turn off the TV, get off the couch, and get walking, the stats support this notion. According to the CDC, just under half (47.7 percent) of the U.S. adult population met the organization's Physical Activity Guidelines. The CDC recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity (or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination) per week.

And one of the simplest ways to keep up with those goals is to walk more. If you're able-bodied and able to add walks to your daily routine, you should. After all, NIH research shows that more steps taken per day leads to lower mortality risk from all causes.

Whether you implement more walking into your routine by taking the stairs instead of elevators or you decide to make a habit of taking an evening walk before bed as a time for self-reflection, you'll probably begin to count up the steps you're taking (if you're not already) to track your progress. There are plenty of tools you can use to do this—a whole industry of gadgets exists largely because of step counts—and just about every type of smartphone can keep track of your progress, too. According to the Mayo Clinic, the average American gets in 3,000 to 4,000 steps each day (that's probably lower than ideal, for the record).

Whether you're into tracking your daily steps or not, knowing how many steps you take each day and how far you've traveled can be great indicators of your overall health. The concept of step tracking can be a great way to have a baseline understanding about how active you are overall—from walks, to runs, to other types of workouts, the number your pedometer spits out is a reflection of everything you do.

But for some people, the step count really comes down to how many times the put one foot in front of the other. They want to be able to quantify those steps even further, helping them to understand exactly what they're doing, including how far they're walking and more.

How Many Steps Are in a Mile

"There are about 2,000 steps in a mile with an approximate stride length of 2 feet-ish," says Colleen M. Brough, PT, DPT, MS, board certified orthopedic clinical specialist and director of Columbia RunLab at Columbia University.

But if you're moving faster, with longer strides, that number will obviously go down.

"When running, this number decreases because stride length tends to get longer, and a 10 minute mile typically translates to about 1,500 steps," says Dr. Brough.

Why Knowing How Many Steps Are in a Mile Matters

Photo credit: adamkaz - Getty Images
Photo credit: adamkaz - Getty Images

While it's fun to know the answer to random questions to show off on trivia nights, there's a deeper reason to measuring your mile step count. We live in a data-focused world, and knowing the exact metrics can help you with your training and overall performance.

"Knowing your personal performance metrics is a strong driver for improvement, and one that I leverage at Columbia RunLab," says Dr. Brough. "Take for example that the American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of exercise each day for cardiovascular health—that translates to about 1.5 miles of walking. Knowing your steps means knowing your daily mileage."

And ultimately, making sure you're meeting your marks will lead to better overall health (if that's how you've decided to train, of course).

"With regular exercise we see decreased overall body weight, blood pressure, bad (LDL and total) cholesterol—with increases in good and protective (HDL) cholesterol and better insulin sensitivity," says Dr. Brough. "The benefits of exercise are now even being better understood in immunocompromised populations, like those managing prostate cancer and non-Hodgkins lymphoma."

Ultimately, getting in any movement is better than none. And in this COVID-era, your overall step count may be lower as you work from home and miss out on other daily opportunities for activity. That means that every step counts.

"Bank a daily brisk walk of 20 to 30 minutes each day, the logged mileage builds," says Dr. Brough. "Improved health and wellbeing translates to better health, better mood, and better sex."

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