Making sure children get enough exercise is crucial. But how many steps in a mile for a child should you expect, and when is it appropriate for them to walk that far?
A typical child takes about 2,600 steps for a mile, but factors like age and height can significantly change this number.
Here is everything you should know about children and walking longer distances after they take their first steps.
Why Is It Important for Children To Walk?
According to Michigan State University, there are huge benefits to children exercising, including walking. In addition to the health benefits we’ll discuss below, walking can provide fresh and fun experiences, reduce the chance of obesity, and put a child on the right path to healthy adulthood.
How Many Steps in a Mile for a Child?
How many steps in a mile for a child is likely? A good starting point is 2,600 steps, but as children age, most will see a natural increase in their stride length. A longer stride means fewer steps per mile.
What’s the Average Step Length for a Child?
According to researcher Simone Gill and others, the average step length for a child varies significantly by age.
A 2-year-old usually has a step length between 30 and 40 centimeters, rising to between 40 to 80 centimeters by age 10. Metric measurements are preferred by researchers for accuracy.
How Many Miles Is 10,000 Steps For A Kid?
For a typical child, 10,000 steps is a little under 4 miles of walking.
How Many Steps Are In 60 Minutes Of Walking For A Child?
Young children usually take more steps to move the same distance while walking, so they tend to have a higher step count. According to the American Heart Association, a child around 10 years old may get about 7,000 steps in 60 minutes of moderately vigorous walking.
Of course, this can vary significantly based on elements like terrain and whether children are doing anything besides walking.
Health Benefits of Walking for Children (and Parents!)
Here are some health benefits of walking, applicable to all ages.
Improves General Health
Walking is healthy and can be done by a wide variety of people. According to Grady Health, walking is often highly underrated in sheer health value. It is not as intense as running, but walking can provide an excellent whole-body workout.
Helps Cognitive and Physical Development
According to Frontiers, walking is good for stimulating cognitive and mental development. Going to different places and having new experiences is good for the brain, particularly among children of all ages.
Promotes Strong Bones
Walking can support bone strength. According to the National Institutes of Health, adequate exercise encourages bones to thicken and toughen up.
This growth can help fight off decay as people age. We have all heard of encouraging kids to drink milk for healthier bones, but that is only one part of the puzzle. Walking is critical!
Improves Emotional Health and Wellbeing
Walking does good things for most people’s mental health. Getting up and moving around helps minimize feelings of being trapped, while exposure to sunlight and fresh air helps the body on many levels.
Encourages a Good Night's Sleep
Finally, according to the Sleep Foundation, walking encourages sleep! It is much easier to get to sleep when you’re tired from moving around, so having a nice evening walk should help kids fall asleep fast and early. That benefits everyone in the family, including you.
How Many Steps Should a Kid Get per Day?
Experts have no consensus on the exact number of steps children should take daily. Many think it is between 12,000 and 14,000 steps. While others think it is fine as long as children spend enough time exercising without counting their steps.
How Much Should a 2-Year-old Walk?
Two-year-olds should get about 3 hours of physical activity a day, split between several different activities. This helps encourage the proper development of all their muscle groups. Walking can be an hour or two of this.
Kids in this age group can often walk about a mile and a half in one session, but you can expect them to tire quickly past that point.
How Much Physical Activity Do 4-Year-olds Need?
Four-year-olds do best with about 3 hours of activity a day, at least 1 hour of which should be moderate-to-vigorous activity.
The youngest children may walk along at their own pace, but kids in this age group will do better with vigorous and active walking. This will increase their step count per hour.
Remember, kids under five should be active throughout the day. Too much sitting or resting is bad for their development.
How Many Steps Should a 7-Year-old Do?
A 7-year-old should get at least an hour of moderate physical activity, which is 7,500 to 8,000 steps for many of them.
While this may sound low, remember that children in this age group often receive exercise through regular tasks like walking around their school. So they do not need to dedicate as much time exclusively to exercise.
How Many Steps Should an 8-Year-old Walk in a Day?
Eight-year-olds are essentially the same as those a year younger. Around 8,000 steps are appropriate as dedicated exercise, aiming towards about 14,000 throughout the day. Remember, every step counts.
How Many Steps Should a 12-Year-old Do a Day?
Twelve-year-olds should get around 12,000 steps in a day. This count is lower than younger children because their stride length is increasing, and they do not need to walk as much.
How Many Steps a Day Is Considered Active for Kids?
Anywhere above 10,000 steps a day is considered active for most children.
Kids have higher exercise needs than most adults, so they also need to take more steps. But, remember that it does not need to happen all at once. Splitting exercise between multiple sessions is usually easier on kids and better for their overall development.
Easy Ideas for Walking With Kids
Here are some quick ideas to make walking more fun for the whole family.
Find a Perfect Time for Everyone To Join
Exercise is usually better when more people can participate. Start by finding a time that works for everyone’s schedule, or at least as many people as possible. By exercising together, you can encourage each other and hold each other accountable for participating.
Exercising together also gives you more people to talk to, which is valuable by itself. Socializing is also crucial for a child’s development, and walking allows chatting.
Get a Pedometer or Step Counter for Every Member
Buying and using pedometers can make things more interesting for everyone in the family. These can also provide an easily-understood way for children to know how close they are to their goals, especially once they start using math.
For example, you could say that a walk will finish when your counter reaches 5,000 steps, then ask a child how many steps you still need to take. Using a pedometer from an early age also teaches children the importance of tracking and monitoring their exercise instead of just doing it.
You can take this a little further by adding a scoreboard and prizes. For example, you can have a child show their pedometer at the end of each day and mark their progress on a whiteboard. When they hit a big milestone, they’ll get a prize.
Including a mixture of short-term, medium-term, and long-term rewards will help children stay motivated to exercise. It also teaches valuable skills for later in life, such as the value of steady progress and making good habits.
Pedometers are simple tools, but they can provide far more value if you find ways to integrate them into a child’s development.
Choose a Few Favorite Walking Spots
Having several walking spots can make walking much more interesting for your family. How well this works depends on your neighborhood and where you can go.
An inner-city apartment complex is a very different situation from a park-friendly suburban area, and both are very different from rural farmlands.
However, having a few different routes makes it easier to predict how far you’re going to walk. For example, you can figure out routes that are roughly 4,000 and 6,000 steps, allowing you to pick whichever option best fits your fitness goals for the day.
Good walking spots also have something to interest or attract children. This could mean a play area, a notable landmark, a small river, or anything else besides streets and houses.
Spots with animals are usually fascinating to children and can make good stopping points on a trip.
Play Games To Pass the Time
Games are one of the easiest ways to make things more fun on a walk. What qualifies as a game depends on personal interests but could include counting objects or trying to achieve a score.
Ideally, the game will have some element of randomness to it. If kids learn exactly where everything in their neighborhood is, that is not wrong itself, but there may not be any challenge to it.
It is important to frame the game as something possible to win by participating. Children should feel that their games are for entertainment, not winning or losing. If they focus too much on whether they can win, it can have negative effects on their development and ability to play or work with others.
Get a Dog
Getting a dog is one of the best ways to encourage exercise in kids. This has myriad benefits, from ensuring walks on a consistent schedule to giving a companion that can shower kids with love.
According to a study published in Pediatric Research, children in families with dogs exhibit better social behaviors, get into fewer fights, and have higher self-esteem. Raising a dog also helps teach responsibility and mindfulness, both of which are helpful for children whose boundless energy might otherwise spiral out of control. The study showed that walking with the family dog at least once a week had a measurable impact on children in pre-school and beyond, and it was possible to walk together much more often.
Make It Fun!
Here is something most experts do not want to admit: exercise is usually boring. It is one thing if you’re engaging in an active sport you love, but if you’re focusing entirely on fitness, it can be hard to stay motivated.
Think about the gym: When people are on most machines, are they just exercising, or are they listening to music or watching TV? It is probably the latter because most people do not enjoy exercise on its own.
The obvious solution is to do something to make it more fun for everyone.
The trick with making things fun is that people find different activities enjoyable. Some people will be entirely satisfied just walking a dog or looking for birds, while others may prefer talking. A few children may even prefer listening to audiobooks while walking.
The important thing to remember here is that when in doubt, it is usually better to ask what people prefer. Once you know what your children like, you can try to structure walks in a way that makes them significantly more enjoyable.
Once you accomplish that, going on a walk feels more like entertainment and less like a chore.
Don’t forget to address any problems that can reduce the fun. For example, according to the Oxford University Hospitals, about 5% of children will have flat feet past five years old. If a child walks for long distances in shoes that are uncomfortable, they’ll naturally shy away from doing it.
In short, having fun on a walk is not only about adding positive things but also removing negative elements.
So, how many steps in a mile for a child is necessary? That depends on factors like their age, but here are a few notes:
- Children walk around 2600 steps per mile
- The exact number of steps is not as important as the time they spend exercising
- There are many ways to make exercise fun for everyone!
Keep these tips in mind when walking with children. They need more exercise than adults for good development, and walking is good for everyone. Make it fun and enjoy your walk outdoors!