May 19


Do You Need 10,000 Steps?

By Sue Ingebretson

May 19, 2015

CFS, disability, Exercise, FitBit, Fitness, injury, joint pain, knee, mobility, osteoarthritis, tracking, walking

Do You Need 10,000 Steps?More than 50 years ago, researchers in Japan set the standard that 10,000 steps per day is an ideal fitness goal for average adults.[1] It took decades, but today that standard has been adopted by the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control, the Surgeon General and more. The WHO (not the 60s rock band) defines this group of average adults as being aged 18 to 64.[2] Does this apply to you? Does your specific mobility challenge, such as fibromyalgia, CFS, or arthritis impact this generalization? Do you see any inherent problems here?  

I should say, do you see yourself in these categories? Do you fit in?

After all, what does someone who’s 18 have to do with someone who’s 64? The only relationship I can imagine is that the 64 year old might send the 18 year old a yearly birthday card along with a $5 check.

In this day and age of tracking and measurements, sometimes we can feel we don’t measure up when we can’t keep up. Would 10,000 steps per day work for you? For some, it might be easy. For others, it may seem an unreachable feat.

If you’re having a fit because you FitBit urges you on toward 10,000 steps, fear not! 

According to a study reported in the Arthritis Care & Research journal, 10,000 steps might not be all they’re cracked up to be (no joint pain pun intended). In fact, their studies showed that 6,000 steps seemed to be a sweet spot for those with arthritis and joint pain concerns.

Walking 6,000 steps was shown to reduce the risk of knee injury limitations related to osteoarthritis. It strengthens the muscles near the knee which prevents cartilage wear and tear.

Dr. Daniel White says, “Walking is an inexpensive activity and despite the common popular goal of walking 10,000 steps per day, our study finds only 6,000 steps are necessary to realize benefits.  We encourage those with or at risk of knee OA to walk at least 3,000 or more steps each day, and ultimately progress to 6,000 steps daily to minimize the risk of developing difficulty with mobility.”[3]

There’s no doubt that measuring, tracking, and monitoring our activities helps to motivate us toward success. So, don’t get me wrong … a FitBit or any monitor can be a great thing. We could all use a bit of motivation and validation when it comes to our fitness goals and activities!

We just need to approach 

fitness carefully and 

respect our mobility concerns.

How many steps do you take per day? Would working up to 6,000 steps affect your overall health? I’m sure it would mine!

Tell us about your walking challenges. Have you any experiences and stories to share?

Do tell!



This article contains NO affiliate links.

(Updated note: Unfortunately, the citations linked below are no longer functioning. But I’ve left them listed here since they were referenced in the original article.)





  1. What a fabulous article. Giving patients permission to work within their unique circumstances, you also inspire them to do what they can and feel good about it. It is so important to keep moving, but equally important not to be goaded into expecting more than a body can give. When we start to think differently, we can expect different results. Move, but be safe. A great message. Thank you.

    1. Thanks Celeste – sometimes we all need a little nudge. And when we can do so with love and support, all the better!

  2. Thank you for this perspective! I recently purchased a FitBit and figured out I needed to walk almost 2 hours a day to get my 10,000 steps in. On some days, I could do that (like maybe I’d go for a 2 hour hike in the mountains), but I found that doing that much every day was too much and was flaring up my pain and fatigue levels. I was comparing myself with other, very fit and non-fibro friends and feeling like a failure, but it’s really all about my personal best and keeping active. And looking at how far I’ve come, not where I wish I was.

  3. My jaw dropped when the saw 10,000 steps per DAY!?! I deal with severe ME-CFS. I’m doing well if I can do 1,200 steps per day. But, as the article points out, it’s about doing our personal best, and not beating ourselves up if we can’t reach “recommended” numbers. I used to push myself to reach arbitrary goals set for me by people who had no understanding of chronic pain or ME-CFS. The result? Significantly worse symptoms. Yes, goals are important, but we must use wisdom as well, and take our unique health issues into account.

    1. Kristina – so glad you’ve found solutions for you! And, please give yourself a big pat on the back for being AWARE of how much you move each day! For many, that wouldn’t even be on their radar. You’re steps ahead (pun intended) of the learning curve!

  4. I ask for a Fitbit for Christmas. I saw that it was set at 10,000 steps and had enough sense to tell myself ” Maybe a goal but not the plan now” I also added tracking what I ate and meditation to my life. I set the Fitbit to 1,000 steps the day I registered online. Wow, I didn’t know I walked that much, I actually felt a bit better about myself. After talking with my one amazing doc (in a sea of idiots). We set a goal of 5000 steps 4-5 times a week. This was after a few weeks of tracking just how much I walked usually. I walked out of his office with a goal and a plan. Well my knee had other plans, I have been limping along (wow, I’m just full of puns tonight) for three years needing a full knee replacement. I had my replacement 6 weeks ago. I have had FM probably since 1984 when I was 14. I was diagnosed 15 years ago and for the last 8 I have run a local support and educational group. If I have learned anything no one guideline, treatment, medication or program fits ANYONE, much less people with chronic illness and pain. I talk about pacing every meeting and with every new person who finds their way to me. My fitbit has become a just another “tool” to help me track at least my walking, it does not track standing in line, scrubbing dishes or any number of other sometimes painful and exhausting activities. It is sometimes a motivator, a warning alarm that I need to slow down to get through my tasks and sometimes just that spot of mindfulness that I am moving, moving more that I actually think I am sometimes and that is a win for the day.

    1. Dawn – what an awesome testament to healing in general, and to keeping up a fitness program specifically. We are all different and need to create the protocols that work for us. Your specific experience with the fitbit is super helpful for everyone in this community and we appreciate your input!

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