Does 10,000 steps a day help to reduce depression?

Edmonton fall Walk

You have probably heard about the benefits of taking 10,000 steps a day and how it’s supposed to improve a person’s general health. Although 10,000 steps have been interpreted as a tool for weight loss, and improved blood pressure it does not beat the gold standard of 150 minutes of moderate to high intensity exercise a week. The general goal of the step program is to increase a person’s general activity.  It’s to be used as another tool much like lifting weights, running, swimming, and all other activities.  This tool, however, is effective because it is far more gradual and easier to achieve; it is lower impact, increases bone density, general strength, and is suitable for all ages. The strategy would be to determine your baseline number of steps per day and then to add an extra 1000 steps per day for a week or two then ramping up as the weeks progress is more sustainable. The person then uses this goal as a stepping stone to other activities.

A preliminary study also looked at 10,000 steps per day and how it affects depressive symptoms.  The study looked at a population of employees at a Japanese electric company during a health campaign which gave all participants pedometers and a goal to take 10,000 steps. The researchers used a general health questionnaire (GHQ-12) and asked other questions about the employees general health practices. They then divided the group into two categories

1) A group that achieved 10,000 steps per day for 60 days (125 people).

2) A group that did not achieve 10,000 steps per day for 60 days (46 people)

The study found that those who achieved 10,000 steps per day had less depressive symptoms than those who did not achieve the goal. Further to this, those who managed to have less than 45 hours of overtime hours per month and managed to attain the steps had a significantly lower level of depressive symptoms than all other people in the study.

Although the results need further backing it does provide evidence that this form of movement and exercise assists not only in improving physical health but mental health too. Our bodies are meant to move and ultimately movement is directly
connected to our wellness. It goes back to that famous saying from Bill Phillips:

Food is the most widely abused anti-anxiety drug in America, and exercise is the most potent and under-utilized antidepressant.


Taneichi, S., F. Tougou, and T. Sasaki. (2014). Is the Walking Campaign Effective for Depressive Symptoms? Journal of Psychiatry, 4, 405 – 409.

About Chris Tse

I’m a scientist turned owner of Blitz Conditioning, a Fitness Columnist at CBC Radio on Thursdays at 8:20 am, and owner of Tse Social Strategy. Follow me on Twitter or Read my full bio.

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