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2 Alternatives That Are Just As Beneficial as Walking 10,000 Steps, According to Science

It’s easier than you think.

It's a benchmark for health that's become so popular it's practically gospel: To get and stay fit, make sure you're taking at least 10,000 steps a day. It's an easy goal to remember, but it's not exactly a shortcut to getting in shape—that number of steps amounts to about five miles. But Good Morning America recently reported there are two alternatives that can get you similar results.

Taking the Stairs

office workers taking the stairs

According to a study published in the medical journal Atherosclerosis, climbing five flights of stairs per day—about 50 steps—lowered the risk of cardiovascular disease by 20%. Whether climbing the stairs at all once or breaking it into smaller trips, participants realized the same benefits, researchers said.

You Can Choose Just One Flight

Young adult woman walking up the stairs with sun sport background.

"If you choose one flight of stairs, you go up it two to three times a day," said Dr. Darien Sutton, an emergency medicine physician and ABC News medical correspondent who wasn't involved in the study. "If you're working in an office, choose a bathroom that's on a different floor."

Do Short Bursts of Activity

couple running in fall

Another study, published last week in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, also found that a short workout can have serious health benefits. Researchers found that just 20 to 25 minutes per day of vigorous movement—such as brisk walking, jogging, or cycling—can help a person live longer.

"Movement Is a True Key to Longevity"


On the other hand, the study found that people who spend most of their day sedentary—sitting or lying down and getting less than 20 minutes of activity—had an increased mortality risk of up to 40%. "It's just an example that movement is a true key to longevity," said Sutton. "And it only takes a couple of minutes a day just to get that benefit."

Other Research Supports Findings

confident determined man ready to workouot
Jacob Lund / Shutterstock

The research echoes previous studies that found shorter bursts of exercise—a.k.a. "exercise snacks"—can be great for you. A 2016 Korean study found that overweight people who did stair-climbing intervals twice a day for five minutes without stopping lost an average of 7.3 pounds of body weight and 5.5 pounds of body fat in just three weeks. 

7,000 May Be As Good As 10,000

Woman checking fitness and health tracking wearable device
Kaspars Grinvalds / Shutterstock

And if you prefer to get your steps in, other research has found that 10,000 isn't necessarily the magic number. A long-term study published in JAMA Network Open in 2021 found that men and women who took at least 7,000 daily steps when they joined the study were about 50 percent less likely to have died in the ensuing years than those with step counts below 7,000. But people who took more than 10,000 steps per day rarely outlived those taking at least 7,000. "There was a point of diminishing returns," said study leader Amanda Paluch, an assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

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How Much Exercise Is Recommended?

Woman exercising going for a run in the morning

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week, about 30 minutes a day, five days per week, along with two sessions of muscle-strengthening activity weekly. But the agency notes that exercise snacks are a totally viable option: "You can spread your activity out during the week and break it up into smaller chunks of time," it says. Remember, any amount of exercise is better than none.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a seasoned writer and editor with a passion for helping people make life-improving decisions. Read more
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