Losing Weight with Fitbit: Is 10,000 Steps Enough?

If you have a Fitbit (or know anyone who has a Fitbit), you are undoubtedly familiar with the recommended goal of 10,000 steps. 10,000 steps, it seems, has become the metric for measuring fitness and activity among users. The exact wording alludes me now, but I recall that when I first set-up my Fitbit Force, it suggested that 10,000 steps was a realistic goal for a moderately active person.

I absolutely LOVE my Fitbit Activity Tracker (I have the original Force)! I have used it for nearly two years now and it has definitely encouraged me to be more active and work toward achieving my 10,000 steps every day. Recently, in an attempt to lose weight, I started paying more attention to the “calories burned” metric instead of just looking at the step counter.

Here’s what I learned:

If I walk 10,000 steps in a day, I burn roughly 1500 calories. Because one pound weighs approximately 3500 calories, if I want to lose weight, I need to burn 3500 calories more than I consume. That means if I burn 500 more calories than I eat every day for a week, I will lose ONE. LOUSY. POUND. (500X7=3500). So, if I want to lose a whopping TWO pounds per week, I need to burn 1,000 calories more than I consume every day!

That means that if all I do is LIVE plus walk 10,000 steps per day, I can eat exactly 500 calories per day. When you love to both cook AND eat, 500 calories a day AINT GONNA CUT IT. And, I’m no doctor, but I can tell you that eating 500 calories per day is probably unhealthy. So, that means that if I stick with Fitbit’s goal of attaining 10,000 steps/day, I am probably going to GAIN weight, especially as I age and start to burn even less calories per day.

On the flip side, the 10,000 steps goal works because it’s easy to remember and achieve. If I have 8,000 steps, I know exactly how much work I have to do to get 10,000. I tried making calories burned my goal for awhile but I would always end up in the same predicament: At 4 pm, I have burned 1100 calories. What do you need to do between now and bedtime to reach my goal of burning 2300 calories/day? Ummmm….no clue. How many calories would I burn if I did nothing? How many more steps to burn 1200 calories? It was not a very attainable goal.

So with a little math, you can “hack” your Fitbit to solve this problem.

1. Figure out how many calories you need to burn in a day. What are your weight loss goals? How much do you like to eat? Would you like to lose weight as quickly and healthily as possible? Great! You need to burn 1000 more calories every day than you eat. I am not much for calorie counting, but I find 1200-1300 calories a day to be realistic and if I eat healthy food, I don’t find myself feeling too hungry. That means I need to burn 2300 calories per day.

If you are unsure how many calories you need to eat per day, I recommend writing down a realistic reflection of a typical eating day for you and calculating how many calories that is. I know calorie counting is unpleasant, but just give it one day to gauge where you are. It will give you a good idea of where you are and where you can improve.

2. Figure out what you need to do to burn that many calories. I know math is difficult, but bear with me. First, figure out how many calories you burn by getting 10,000 steps per day. If this is less than your goal, work the following equation (if this is more than your goal, I hate you, just kidding):

10,000 X Goal Calories = Large Number. Large Number ÷ Number of Calories Burned in 10,000 steps = Number of steps needed to reach goal.

Let me break it down for you:

I burn 1500 calories by walking 10,000 steps.

My goal calories are 2300.

So here is the equation:

10,000 X 2300 = 23000000. 23000000 ÷ 1500 = 15,333.

Therefore, I need 15,333 steps to reach my goal!

Confused? I have created a handy dandy print-out to keep things nice and simple. Want to see? Subscribe in the pop up box and I will send it straight to your inbox!


How many steps do you need to get every day to reach your weight loss goals? Tell me in the comments!


6 thoughts on “Losing Weight with Fitbit: Is 10,000 Steps Enough?

  1. If you burn 1500 through normal activity plus doing 10000 steps, it would seem you are quite a small person. A basal metabolic rate of 1200 or so indicates that. It is just not possible for a smaller person to lose the kind of weight a bigger and possibly rather overweight person would. Also you have to remember the 3500 calorie number is a figure based on losing one pound of FAT specifically, but your body will lose water and an amount of lean tissue too. So the 500 calorie deficit may cause you to lose just 1 pound of fat per week but will probably cause a bigger total weight loss per week that isn't just fat. If you are a small person you just have to accept the 500 calorie deficit as good enough for your size or do a little bit more through exercise...but maybe not a whole 1000 calories worth of exercise, hardly anyone would have time for that! You will also not gain weight if you stick to your BMR, 1200 etc. and plus what ever exercise calories you did, which is what fit bit works out for you.
    1. Thanks for your comment! As a small person, it is quite difficult for me to lose weight. I rarely (if ever) make it to the 1,000 calorie deficit, it is a goal I strive for but find quite difficult to achieve. I simply try to come as close as I possibly can every day!
  2. Are the 1500 calories you're saying you've burned the ones you've subtracted aside from your basal metabolic rate, or including it? That wasn't clear. In walking 10k steps I technically burn 2608 calories, but 1685 of that is BMR, leaving 923 of "real calories" burned. I'm asking so that I can do the math correctly.
    1. Hi Liz, The 1500 calories is including my BMR, so I only burn roughly 1500 calories walking 10,000 steps. Therefore, if I want to lose weight, I have to really MOVE! The newer Fitbits (those that track heartrate) probably give you an even more accurate read of how many calories you burn in a day, I realize that mine only provides an estimate based on the height, weight, and age that I provided. I try to use my Fitbit as motivation to move and exercise more and not rely on it too much more than that. I just found in doing my research that 10,000 steps is not nearly enough for me to achieve my fitness goals, but I still feel better on the days I am able to hit that 10,000 mark and I try to do more when I can!
    1. Hi Wanda, thanks for the question. There are many factors that could affect how much weight you will lose in one week, but diet and exercise can be two of the main ones. To give you my opinion, I would need to know how many calories FitBit says you are burning and how many steps you are walking each day. FitBit takes into account your age and weight. So, if you let me know how many steps you are walking each day and how many calories you are burning, I can give you an answer. You can email me at foodiocentric@gmail.com or find me on Facebook if that's easier. I look forward to hearing from you!

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