Walking is a relatively popular form of exercise and daily activity. There are a variety of interesting statistics and facts about walking.
Whether by choice or because they have to, most people walk a nice amount throughout their day. Additionally, many people use walking as a way to get in some exercise.
Below you can find a short list of some of the most popular findings about walking and after that even more interesting statistics and facts and where these come from.
Keep in mind that the figures below are often estimations from smaller studies, surveys, and search engines.
These things generally come with a lot of biases, suboptimal sample selection, and measurement errors. In reality, the numbers will likely vary for the overall population, sometimes by a lot.
Quick overview of popular walking statistics
To start you can find a few of the most popular walking statistics and facts, and estimations implied from the investigated data in a quick overview.
- In one survey, walking more than 2 miles was the most common form of sport that was done in the past 4 weeks (33%). Other sports included gym or fitness classes (16%), indoor swimming (13%), and jogging (11%).
- A 155-pound (70 kg) individual burns around 64 calories when walking for 15 minutes at 3 mph (4.83 km/h).
- This same individual would have to walk at the same speed for slightly more than 18 minutes to burn the number of calories in a medium-sized chocolate chip cookie.
- Walking can improve your creativity, on average 60% in one study, compared to sitting down.
- Waiters (23000 steps), nurses (16390 steps), and retail workers (14660 steps) tend to be the jobs where you take the most daily steps.
- The largest distance walked in 24 hours is currently 142.25 miles (228.93 km).
- Of the participants in one survey, 26% had been in distracted walking incidents ranging from bumping into someone or something to tripping/falling or being hit by a moving vehicle.
- One publication concluded that dog owners were four times as likely as non-dog owning adults to meet the current physical activity guidelines of 150 minutes a week due to all the walking they do.
In the rest of this article, you can find more interesting statistics about this way to get in some extra movement and where these numbers come from.
Global walking statistics
Walking is one of the most popular ways to get in some extra movement. Below you can find some statistics that give a better idea of how many people around the world walk and how much.
For the statistics below it can be helpful to keep in mind that 1 mile is about 2000 steps.
- One study estimated that their American participants walked on average 5117 steps a day (1).
- The same study mentioned that for Japan the average step count a day was 7168 steps.
- For Switzerland an average of 9650 steps per day.
- And for Western Australia an average of 9695 steps a day.
- Withings, a company that offers products including fitness trackers, release the average steps for certain countries. They measured an average of 5815 steps per day for United States Citizens (2).
- Other countries included Germany with an average of 6337 steps a day.
- France with an average of 6330 steps a day.
- And the United Kingdom with an average of 6322 steps a day. Something to keep in mind is that users with fitness trackers tend to be more active or at least try to be.
- The Scottish household survey from 2019 mentions that 68% of adults mentioned that they regularly did recreational walking for at least 30 minutes in the last 4 weeks (3). This was the most common type of physical activity. For example, only 11% of adults reported cycling more than 30 minutes in the last 4 weeks.
- In a different survey from The National Survey for Wales, walking more than 2 miles was the most common form of sport that was done in the past 4 weeks (33%). Other sports included gym or fitness classes (16%), swimming (15%), and jogging (11%) (4).
- On January 9th, 2022 we conducted a quick 24-hour poll on our own Instagram page with the question “Have you walked as a form of exercise in the last 4 weeks?” that could be answered with “Yes” or “No”. 181 people responded to this poll. 75.1% of these people answered yes, 24.9% of these people answered no.
Additionally, Google Trends is a tool that shows you how much interest in certain search terms evolves over time for the given region and time. A value of 100 is the peak popularity for the term. A value of 50 means that the term is half as popular.
In the image below you can find the search popularity of walking compared to a few other ways to go in some extra movements.
As you can see, walking is relatively popular. Something to keep in mind is that searching for a certain sport can also mean being interested in sports news.
This is mostly the case for sports like football, tennis, basketball, etc.
Walking statistics in the U.S.
There are also some walking statistics more specifically for individuals in the U.S.
- A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mentions that self-reported walking among women has been rising steadily with 57.4% in 2005, 62.5% in 2010, and 65.1% in 2015 (5).
- This same report also mentions the number of men. These are 54.3% in 2005, 61.8% in 2010, and 62.8% in 2015.
Walking health statistics
From the previous surveys, studies, and polls, you can see that a good amount of people regularly walk.
While many of these people also enjoy walking, there are a variety of health benefits you get from walking too.
These health statistics are backed up by a variety of scientific studies. These studies are not always done specifically with walking but since walking is a form of exercise these still apply.
- A 155-pound (70 kg) individual burns around 64 calories when walking for 15 minutes at 3 mph (4.83 km/h) (6).
Carrying around too much excess body fat is generally harmful to your health. One way to prevent gaining body fat or losing it is to increase the number of calories you burn.
Moving around more intensely than usual generally requires more calories. That means that walking can help you lose weight or at least prevent you from gaining weight more than sitting down.
The number of calories burned by walking depends on a lot of factors. Some of these include your body weight, how fast you walk, the surface you walk on, etc.
- This same individual would have to walk at the same speed for slightly more than 18 minutes to burn the number of calories in a medium-sized chocolate chip cookie.
- Physical exercise like walking generally improves your immune system (7, 8, 9).
- Walking can strengthen your cardiovascular system as long as you don’t overdo it. This leads to a wide variety of other benefits like decreasing the risks of related conditions (10, 11, 12).
- Workouts like walking can reduce the risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease (13).
- Walking can help you strengthen your bones. In turn, this reduces the risk of fractures (14, 15, 16).
- Walking can slow down aging in the sense that it slows down the progression of certain measurements used to calculate biological age. This in turn reduces the risk of a variety of diseases (17, 18, 19).
- Exercise like walking can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes (20, 21, 22).
Keep in mind that these benefits are not exclusive to walking. Walking alternatives and workouts in general can offer similar benefits. Often even to a larger extent than walking.
Other walking benefits
Besides purely health benefits, regularly going for a walk can also improve your life in other areas.
- In a survey of the European Knee Associates walking was one of the five recommended forms of exercise to do within the first 6 weeks after a knee replacement (23).
- Walking can improve your mood both by improving general health and promoting the release of endorphins “feel-good hormones” (24, 25, 26).
- Walking can improve your creativity, on average 60% in one study, compared to sitting down (27).
- A few studies find that walking does not influence hunger levels in significant amounts compared to doing nothing (28, 29, 30). This is good news since that means you don’t compensate in eating more for the extra energy you used.
- One publication suggests that increasing participation in inactive Americans with workouts like walking could reduce annual national medical costs by as much as $76.6 billion in 2000 dollars (31).
- While walking accessories can be really helpful, in essence, many people don’t need to buy anything extra to get in a good walking workout.
- One small investigation with two subjects observed that walking just after a meal seems to be more effective for weight loss than waiting for one hour to walk after a meal (32).
- A different study observed that eating while walking leads to a smaller rise in blood sugar than eating while sitting down (33). This could be helpful for avoiding the blood sugar rollercoaster that leads to hunger and feeling tired after a big meal.
Fun facts about walking
Besides the slightly more serious statistics about walking, there are also a variety of fun facts.
These will likely not motivate you to walk those extra 1000 steps a day but can be fun to know.
- Race walking first appeared at the Olympics in 1904 (34).
- In the most recent 2020 (/2021) Tokyo Olympics there were 3 race walking events: the men’s 20km race walk, the women’s 20km race walk, and the men’s 50km race walk (35).
- An individual who walks about 6000 steps a day and lives to the age of 70 years, will have walked about 56940 miles (91636 km) or about 2.3 times around the earth from the age of 18 years (leap years excluded).
- The average walking speeds of humans are about 2-3 miles per hour (3.2-4.8 km/h) during day-to-day life and 3 to 4 miles per hour (4.8-6.4 km/h) when walking as a form of exercise.
- On average children start to walk when they are around 12 months old. This can easily vary between 8.5 months and 20 months too (36).
- Waiters (23000 steps), nurses (16390 steps), and retail workers (14660 steps) tend to be the jobs where you take the most daily steps (37).
- Using a pedometer (step counter) can motivate you to take around 2491 extra steps per day (38).
- National Walking Day is on the first Wednesday in April every year.
- Focusing on an object ahead of you can increase your walking speed and make the physical task feel easier (39).
- If you would walk nonstop at a pace of 3 miles per hour (4.83 km per hour), it would take slightly less than 346 days to walk around the world.
- What type of music you listen to while walking influences things like your walking speed (40, 41).
- About 3-6 million years ago humans started walking on two legs (42).
- About 40% of children experience at least one session of sleepwalking (43).
- The same source mentions that about 2%-3% of the general population sleepwalks.
- Some people take it one step further than sleepwalking alone and eat in their sleep without knowing they did so.
- The tightrope walking record distance is 1.3 miles (2.09 km) (44).
- Firewalking, walking barefoot over a bed of hot embers, is done by a variety of cultures across the world (don’t try this at home).
Walking is not just done to get in some extra movement. This form of exercise is also done competitively to walk distances in a short amount of time and to just walk very long distances.
Below you can find some of the walking records this has led to.
- The longest racing walk competition is currently the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race which is as the name implies 3100 miles (4989 km) long. The current record time is 40 days 09:06:21.
- The longest unbroken walk was 19,019 miles (slightly more than 30608 km) from the southern tip of South America to the northernmost part of Alaska done by George Meegan in 2,425 days.
- Jean Beliveau did the longest continuous world walk which was slightly more than 46600 miles (75000 km) and did it in 11 years.
- The world record for the 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) race walk is 37:11 for men and 41:04 for women.
- The world record for the 50 kilometers (31.1 miles) race walk is 3:32:33 for men and 3:59:15 for women (45).
- The largest distance walked in 24 hours is currently 142.25 miles (228.93 km) (46).
General walking statistics and facts
Next, there are some more general walking statistics and facts. These range from what type of environment tends to make people the happiest to how many steps a day is considered to be sedentary, etc.
- Individuals who live in a metropolitan area tend to walk more as means of transport to a destination (10+ minutes) compared to individuals who live in nonmetropolitan areas (47).
- In one survey, the most common reasons for walking were keeping fit/working out (46.7%), enjoyment of walking (46.5%), and owning a pet that needed to be walked (14.1%) (48).
- A walk in nature may evoke higher positive emotional responses and lower negative emotional responses compared to a similar walking workout indoors (49).
- When walking, the average person takes about 1800-2200 steps per mile.
- One source estimates that walking uphill on a 6%-15% grade is about 230% as intense as walking at the same speed on a flat surface (50). This would also lead to the same increase in calories burned.
- The CDC estimates that 46.7% of U.S. citizens do not reach the Physical Activity Guidelines for aerobic physical activity (51).
- Taking less than 5000 steps a day is generally considered to be a sedentary lifestyle (52).
- One study suggests that alternating between walking fast and slow is more enjoyable and burns more calories than regular walking (53).
- The difference between walking fast and running is that with walking there is always one foot that touches the ground. With running you are completely off the ground in between steps.
- One study estimates that your average walking speed declines about 0.0037 meters/second per year (54). This is equivalent to a difference of 1.2 minutes, when walking a distance of 1 km (0.62 miles) aged 20 compared to 60 years.
- If you follow the very general exercise guidelines you want to walk about 11.25 miles a week at a pace of at least 3 miles per hour and have 2 days of muscle-strengthening activities. This comes down to about 1.61 miles, or 2900-3500 steps, a day.
- One publication concluded that dog owners were four times as likely as non-dog owning adults to meet the current physical activity guidelines of 150 minutes a week due to all the walking they do (55).
Distracted walking statistics
With the popularity of smartphones and similar devices, a good amount of people tend to use these while walking.
The statistics below give more precise estimations about how many people engage in distracted walking, what the consequences of this are, whether people think this is a serious issue or not, and more.
- 35% of participants of a survey considered distracted walking a very serious issue (56).
- Of the participants of this same survey, 31% considered distracted walking something they were likely to do.
- 26% of the participants had been in distracted walking incidents ranging from bumping into someone or something to tripping/falling or being hit by a moving vehicle.
- 7% of the people were usually/almost always texting, reading emails/websites, playing games, or taking pictures while walking. 21% said they did these things sometimes, 23% said not very often, and 49% said not at all.
- One study looked at the difference in activity levels of individuals before and after starting the mobile game pokemon GO. They measured an 34.8% relative increase of the number of steps per day. The number of participants reaching a goal of 10000 steps per day went from 15.3% before starting pokemon GO to 27.5% after (57).
- One 2012 study looked at the crossing behaviors of 1102 pedestrians on 20 high-risk intersections. They measured that 29.8% of these pedestrians performed a distracting activity while crossing. Some of these included listening to music (11.2%), text messaging (7.3%), and using a handheld phone (6.2%) (58).
- In the same study, texting pedestrians took 1.87 additional seconds (18.0%) to cross the average intersection (3.4 lanes), compared to undistracted pedestrians.
- A different study with 3553 high school students in Canada measured that 18.7% engaged in distracted walking (59). Interestingly enough distracted walking was more prevalent when the temperature was above 10 °C compared with less than 0 °C.
- In one 2019 study, of the 643 pedestrians, bike riders, and electric bike riders aged 10-35 years who were involved in a road injury and visited the emergency department in one of the 3 hospitals in Shanghai, China, 50.2% had used a cell phone within 1 minute before the injury happened (60).
- One study found that individuals who used their phones while walking changed their gait to a more cautious stepping strategy which could help reduce the risk of tripping/falling (61).