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How Many Steps Per Day Do Children Need?


Updated April 29, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Pedz Pedometer

Pedz Pedometer

Wendy Bumgardner © 2009
With childhood obesity skyrocketing in countries around the world, researchers asked how much activity a child needs to be in a healthy body composition zone. Pedometers easily measure how much a child is moving between activities and play, and these "lifestyle steps" can be enough to keep a child in a healthy weight zone.

How Many Steps a Child Needs

A study published in 2013 followed almost 2000 children who wore accelerometers to determine what number of steps best showed that they met recommendations for 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA). The study authors determined that 11,500 unedited steps on an accelerometer was an indication of achieving that much activity. With a pedometer that edits out random movement, that equals 9000 pedometer steps per day. While there was no agreed upon definitive target number, the authors proposed aiming for 11,500 unedited or 9,000 pedometer steps a day as 'reasonable rule of thumb'.

A previous study published in 2004 reviewed research of almost 2000 children in the USA, Australia and Sweden. It showed that for 6–12 year olds, girls needed 12,000 steps/day and boys needed 15,000 steps/day to stay in a healthy Body Mass Index - BMI. The study was published in the June, 2004 "Preventative Medicine" by Catrine Tudor-Locke Ph.D. and associates.

Small Steps Add Up

While diet contributes to childhood obesity, activity seems to be the key for a child to grow with a healthy weight. Parents can make a game of increasing activity by giving their child a pedometer and encouraging them to increase their daily steps. Steps will be counted when a child walks, runs or jumps, although not while biking or skateboarding.

Make it a Family Game

Counting steps is not just for kids. Buy a pedometer for each member of your family and have a healthy competition. The first week, simply track average steps. The second week, reward each person who increases their daily steps by 2000. Continue the next week rewarding those who increase them another 2000 until they reach the goal of 10,000 for adults, 12,000 for girls and 15,000 for boys. Have a big celebration when anyone reaches those major goals.
Top Picks for Pedometers for Kids

Track Your Steps

Programs such as Webwalking USA are perfect for children and families - track your steps on a virtual walk across the USA.

More on Step Counting

Ways to Add 2000 More Steps Per Day
Choosing and Using a Pedometer
Pedometer Walking Programs


Marc A Adams, William D Johnson, Catrine Tudor-Locke. "Steps/day translation of the moderate-to-vigorous physical activity guideline for children and adolescents." International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 2013, 10:49 doi:10.1186/1479-5868-10-49 Published: 21 April 2013

Catrine Tudor-Locke, Ph.D., et. al. "BMI-referenced standards for recommended pedometer-determined steps/day in children." Preventive Medicine. Volume 38, Issue 6, June 2004, Pages 857–864.

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