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Walking 20000 Steps A Day: What Does It Do To Your Body?

So you’re thinking about walking 20000 steps a day? That’s impressive. 20,000 steps every day is a massive commitment.

It’s going to use up all your free time, help you hit your weight loss goals, and most importantly, get you fit.

Regular walking is linked to a lower risk of mortality, cancer, and cardiovascular disease and may help you avoid dementia in later life. Those are enough reasons for most people to up their step count!

But 20,000 steps a day is a lot more than the standard 10,000 steps a day challenge and it’s going to have a bigger impact on your body.

This complete guide looks at what to expect, what does walking do to your body, who should attempt 20K steps, potential weight loss and what are the pitfalls.

Let’s get started!

walking 20000 steps a day

How Many Miles Is 20000 Steps?

Converting steps to miles depends on your step length or stride length, but in general, 20000 steps is 8 to 10 miles.

These are some of the factors affecting how far you walk:

  • Height – if you’re taller you’ll probably have a longer stride length.
  • Sex – Men and women have different biomechanics and this affects your gait. Men tend to take longer strides.
  • Speed – when you walk faster your stride length is longer.
  • Fitness – being fitter will affect your walking gait.

To get an accurate answer you can measure your average stride length but you can also estimate the answer based on your height, gender, and walking speed.

Based on research in the ACSM’s Health and Fitness Journal, you can use these tables to find how many steps in a mile, or just double these calculated distances for 10K steps in miles.

At a brisk walking pace of 3.5 miles per hour, most people, both male and female, will walk 9.5 to 10 miles a day in a 20,000 steps-a-day challenge.

How Long Does It Take To Walk 20000 Steps?

The time it takes to walk 20,000 steps depends on your walking pace.

It takes between 140 to 160 minutes to walk 20,000 daily steps at a brisk pace of 3.5 miles/hr.

For a slower pace of 3.0 miles/hr, allow 160 to 190 minutes.

These paces are faster than the typical pace people walk when they’re going about their daily activities. Most people walk at around 2.4 miles/hour – so to hit these times you need to put some effort into your walking.

Is Walking 20,000 Steps A Day Realistic?

Let’s start with when isn’t walking 20,000 steps a day realistic:

If You’re A Beginner Walker

Don’t even think about it! If you’re not used to walking regularly, jumping straight in and walking 20,000 steps a day is just asking for trouble.

Of course, there are plenty of examples of people who have jumped straight in and walked 20K steps a day without any build-up, but it’s not normally a good idea.

If you’re relatively young, reasonably fit, and already have quite a high daily step count from just going about your day-to-day activities, then you might be able to handle the challenge straight away.

But for everyone else, it’s always a good idea to build up your daily step count gradually first.

Take the 10,000-step challenge and when you’ve hit that target, increase your daily step count in 1000-step increments until you hit your 20,000 steps a day target.

If You’re Short Of Time

Unless you can fit a big chunk of your daily steps around your day-to-day activities, it’s going to take approximately 3 hours to walk 20,000 steps a day.

That’s a lot of free time!

You’ll need to plan how you can fit all this walking into your daily routine. It’s going to be time-consuming, so make your plans now if this is going to work.

You’re Susceptible To Injury

Walking is repetitive. If your body is prone to injury, this could be the wrong challenge for you.

There are many ways of getting more out of your time walking instead of just walking further. Building a stronger body and using these walking workouts can be just as good for your overall health.

It’s Realistic When:

  • You already have a base fitness level and enjoy an active lifestyle.
  • You’re ready to make a big commitment to your health and fitness.
  • Being out in the fresh air for 2 to 3 hours a day appeals to you.
  • You live to exercise and love taking on new challenges!
walk 20000 steps benefits

What To Expect Walking 20000 Steps A Day

Before launching into walking 20000 steps a day, it’s a good idea to know what to expect:

You will feel sore

Don’t expect to jump to 20000 steps a day without having some impact on your body. It may not be as intense as a HIIT session in the gym, but the extra hours every day spent walking will make those muscles and joints ache!

Some people are dismissive of walking as a form of physical activity – it’s just walking!

Yes everybody walks but the average American adult walks just 5000 steps per day. Increasing your steps to 20,000 a day will make a big difference to your fitness level.

Expect to be tired

The first 2 weeks will be the hardest. You’ll be worn out from all that walking. Expect to sleep like a baby.

You’ll have more energy

As you get fitter, expect your energy levels to soar! Whenever I take in a new fitness challenge, I always find I significantly improve my productivity.

You’ll feel sharper, be more organized and fit more into your daily schedule.

You’ll spend a lot of time on your own

Some people may find the extra walking can be a bit lonely. It depends on the type of person you are.

I find my daily walks are a chance to clear my head and get some perspective on life.

You can fill the time with podcasts or listen to music. I keep meaning to learn a language on my walks but so far it hasn’t happened!

Some people manage to walk with friends – if this works for you that’s great. For others, it’s a real challenge to fit daily steps into a busy schedule and it’s often easier to walk on your own.

Most people will think you’re crazy

A lot of people will use a health app but that doesn’t mean your friends will understand why you’re walking 20,000 steps a day.

When you take on this new challenge – not everyone will be encouraging. Try and ignore them. This is an investment in your health. When you start to see the benefits of your walking challenge, they’ll be the ones asking you for advice.

You’ll find every opportunity to be more active

Running errands, walking on the spot in a queue, finding an excuse to walk around the office… these are all tactics you’ll use to add more steps to your day.

You’ll become a morning person

Now this surprised me. I didn’t think I’d ever manage to be a morning person.

But sometimes it’s the only way you can fit in your daily step quota. Fitting in more walking meant getting up and walking before work. It’s surprising how you adapt.

These days I love getting up and exercising first thing – a fresh start to the day.

The weather won’t matter

Surprisingly this is true. Of course, it will matter over the first few weeks but you’ll adapt.

You’ll get a waterproof jacket or an umbrella for wet days. You’ll learn to wrap up in warm layers in winter weather and walk in the shade on hot days. Nothing will stop you from going for your walk.

Will You Lose Weight Walking 20000 Steps A Day?

Yes, provided you’re eating sensibly, most people can expect weight loss by walking 20000 steps a day. It would be difficult not to lose weight. (Unless you don’t need to lose any).

You’ll be walking briskly to fit in so many steps, there’s less time to sit on the couch eating junk food and most people become interested in the nutritional content of what they’re eating when they’re exercise more intently.

You want to know that the food you’re eating to fuel your next walk will provide all the energy and nutrients you need. Suddenly it becomes far more important to reach for nutritious food packed with protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats.

Of course, you will be more hungry – especially when you first start walking 20000 steps a day, and I’m sure sugary snacks will tempt most people.

But it will be very difficult to eat enough extra food to replace all the calories you’re burning.

Off course you can stack the odds in favor of weight loss by making sure you always have healthy snacks to hand and by meal prepping.

When you’re walking 20000 steps a day, time will be precious. Preparing most of your meals at the start of the week will make sure you’ve always got a healthy meal ready when you get back from your walks.

20000 steps a day

How Many Calories Will I Burn If I Walk 20000 Steps A Day?

The calories burned walking mainly depend on your current weight and walking speed. For most people calories burned walking 20000 steps will be around 800 extra calories a day. Far more if you’re carrying a lot of excess weight.

It’s enough for a steady weight loss of around 2 pounds a week. Of course, you can still wipe out this extra calorie burn by eating more calories but it’s unlikely – just because you’ll be spending so much time walking.

You can get a more accurate figure by converting your steps to miles and using our calories burned walking calculator.

Does Walking 20000 Steps A Day Build Muscle?

You bet it does! You’re going to love what it does to your legs and core muscles.

Walking will give your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves a good workout. It will also strengthen your core – those muscles used to stabilize your hips as you walk and engage the upper back muscles when you’re swinging your arms to try and walk faster.

Walking won’t do much for your arm muscles. If you want to build shapely arms, try and add strength training to your busy schedule. Or use walking poles to give your arms a workout!

Just 10-15 minutes, 2 to 3 times a week will make a difference. These bodyweight exercises are good for all-over fitness.

Some people try walking with weights to get more impact from their 20000 steps. I’m not a fan. If you’re walking 20000 steps regularly and want to take your fitness to the next level – walking intervals, walking uphill, or taking up running are all good options.

Ruching, (walking with a weighted vest, has its place as a staple of military training or for mountaineers getting fit to climb big peaks with heavy packs. But walking with heavy weights can be bad for your knees, especially on steep descents.

9 Tips For Walking 20000 Steps A Day

These tips will help you get to 20000 steps a day:

#1 Take Every Opportunity To Walk Extra Steps

Walk to work, walk in your lunch break, and walk in the evening. Instead of driving short distances or taking the bus, walk.

Convince your colleagues to try walking meetings, pace around while the kettle boils in your coffee break, or get a standing desk.

#2 Hunt Out Good Walking Routes From Home

It’s a lot easier to stick to a walking plan if you can just head out the front door down a set route.

Driving to places to walk is all very well but you’ll soon find excuses not to do it because it takes more time.

Find an okay route you can automatically get up and walk in the mornings or whenever you have free time.

#3 Vary Your Route

I like to walk the same route most days. You become a creature of habit. But some days you’ll feel like a change.

So make sure you have a backup route or two.

#4 Get Enough Sleep

If you’re going to bed late it’s going to be hard to get up early for a walk before work. Set yourself some sleep targets and aim for 7 to 8 hours per night.

Walking 20000 steps will make you tired – so get those Zzzz.

#5 Walk Briskly But Don’t Speed Walk

Speed walking seems great for weight loss – going fast burns extra calories. But it isn’t such a great idea if you’re walking 20,000 steps a day.

Hitting your step target depends on staying injury-free. Normally walking is low impact and a safe exercise for avoiding injuries.

Speed walking is different and can put a lot of stress on your body. It’s better to walk briskly with a natural gait than force your body to walk faster.

#6 Avoid Weights

Most people will be better off avoiding carrying weights or using a weight vest. 20000 steps a day will be enough exercise without adding to the intensity.

#7 Include Bodyweight Exercises

Adding bodyweight exercises 2 or 3 times a week to your training regime will make your legs stronger and more able to deal with the repetitive motion of walking.

These suggested bodyweight exercises help for both walking and running.

#8 Think Of Yourself As An Athlete

This is a big challenge. Not many people manage 20000 steps a day. Show your body some respect.

It will be hard waking up with a hangover and getting up for a morning walk. Likewise, fuelling your body entirely on fast food will see you quickly running out of energy.

Start thinking about how to get the best performance out of your body.

#9 Enter An Event

Having a target such as a big walking event at the end of your 20,000 steps challenge can help with motivation.

Or it can just be a great way to celebrate the improvements to your fitness.

Find an event that inspires you and gets you excited – even a little scared can be good!

walking 20K steps a day
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Thoughts From Love Life Be Fit

Wondering what walking 20,000 steps a day does to your body?

  • Expect weight loss, to improve your fitness, and have more energy.
  • You’ll be sleeping better at night and you’ll be more productive during the day.
  • Expect firm glutes and shapely calves – you’ll want to show off your legs at every opportunity!
  • Your core muscles will be stronger – you’ll have better posture, feel lighter and move more easily!

So get started building up to 20,000 steps a day – you’ll love the results!

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