If you've invested in a pedometer to track your steps each day, you've discovered an effective way to measure physical activity. Because everybody has a different stride length and body weight, calorie burning varies from person to person. However, you can gain insight from the average calorie burn and then measure your own stride for greater accuracy.
Average Calorie Burning
The average person has a stride of 32 inches and walks 1.46 miles in 2,900 steps. At a speed of 2.9 mph, a casual pace, it would take 30 minutes to travel that distance. A 150-pound person would burn about 116 calories during that walk, while lighter people would burn more and heavier people would burn less. If you add a hill to the equation, calorie expenditure also rises. For example, that 150-pound person would burn 159 calories walking up a 3-percent grade.
Your stride may not be average, so if you're concerned with accuracy it's time for some measuring. One technique is to step in a puddle to wet the soles of your shoes, then walk at a normal rate for about eight paces. Measure the distance of several steps from heel to heel, then average them to find your stride length. A shorter stride means you'll cover less distance, while a longer stride means you'll go farther. For example, someone with a 24-inch stride travels 1.24 miles in 2,900 steps while someone with a 39-inch stride goes 1.79 miles.
Running is significantly more vigorous than walking, so you'll burn more calories with each step. The per-minute stride rate for the average recreational runner falls in the 160s, according to "Runner's World," and at 160 steps per minute, 2,900 steps would take about 18 minutes. Running at a pace of 6.5 mph, a 150-pound person burns about 304 calories in 18 minutes, which is nearly triple the amount she burns walking the same number of steps.
You're off to a good start with 2,900 steps, but the Shape Up America! program, started by former Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop, recommends aiming for 10,000 steps per day to maintain a healthy weight and boost physical fitness. This equals about 5 miles, and you may choose to walk or run. Steps during daily activities, such as walking through the grocery store parking lot, count as much as steps during long-distance walks or jogs.
Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.