Get Your “Daily Step” Prescription: The Benefits of Walking for Children and Adults Alike

Benefits of walking for children

We all know that walking is a great way for adults to stay fit, healthy and live a longer life. But what about our kids?

Going for a walk is not just a super easy and affordable way to get the kids moving, but the huge choice of kid-friendly step trackers, watches and other fitness devices on the market can help motivate children to get their steps in.

Walking is a fun and accessible way to keep them fit and healthy, while also boosting their mental health, social skills and a whole host of other benefits.

How much walking should kids and adults do each day?

Hitting that magical “10,000 steps” a day is actually a “myth” crafted in 1965 by the Japanese company that first marketed the 10,000 step pedometer.

There is now scientific evidence that walking as little as 4,000 steps a day for adults can make a big difference in living a longer and healthier life, especially in reducing heart disease-related deaths like heart attacks and strokes.

The more steps you take each day, the greater the boost to the longevity and quality of your life.

In fact, Prof. Banach and his international team recently published a land-mark study in the European Journal of Cardiology. The study gives fascinating insights on how the number of steps you take each day affects your health.

Taking an extra 1,000 steps beyond the baseline of 4,000 steps daily reduces the risk of death from any cause by 15% over the next 7 years. And if you just add an extra 500 steps beyond 4,000 daily steps, there's a 7% decrease in heart disease-related deaths over that same period.

In simpler terms, boosting your daily steps from 4,000 to 7,000, could reduce your risk of death by 45% and decrease the likelihood of a fatal heart attack or stroke by 21% over the next 7 years. And there is probably even more longevity benefit if you exceed 10,000+ daily steps.

Now, consider this: Is there any medication your doctor could prescribe that offers health benefits comparable to this "Daily Step prescription"?

Does taking 4,000, 7,000 or 10,000 steps a day change your daily routine?

For a person of average height walking at an average pace, it would take about 12 minutes to walk 1 km, about 30 minutes to take 4,000 steps, or approximately 90 minutes to reach 10,000 steps.

The health benefits of higher step counts

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It may sound like a lot, but when you consider the incredible benefits of walking, hopefully it will give you the motivation you need to set higher step targets. Try the Step to Km & Time calculator to figure out how aiming for 4,000 steps or more translates into the minutes of walking you can build into your day.

Remember, adopting such habits often becomes easier with support from family and friends. And it also helps to prioritise. Is it health, wealth, work or family that matters most to you? As a parent, prioritising your health ensures you're there to guide your children towards their fullest potential. It's certainly food (and exercise) for thought.

If we all move more every day, it can certainly help many of us ward off the common 21st century chronic metabolic illnesses, such as heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke, diabetes and even cancer. Plus, it’s a great boost for our mental health, social connections and building a stronger body.

But do these amazing benefits apply to kids? And how many steps do they need to hit for it to be considered a good amount of walking, compared to adults?

Healthy habits start young

Obesity in children is a growing problem. But, kids are far less likely to become overweight if you build healthy habits and make exercise a part of their everyday routine.

Walking is an excellent exercise for kids, promoting cardiovascular health while strengthening  bones and muscles. And since the body uses stored fat for energy during this low-intensity exercise, it is also an effective way to burn calories and manage your child’s weight. 

Studies have shown that walking, like in adults, can reduce a child’s risk of developing heart disease, cancer and type-2 diabetes later in life.

Here are some other benefits of walking with your kids on a regular basis.

Improved sleep

Children’s naturally high energy levels coupled with extended screen time can make them restless. Try getting them to burn off some of that energy with a walk, and you’re likely to see improvements in both their sleep quality and yours.

Walking builds essential motor skills

While walking may seem effortless for many adults, seeing a toddler’s wobbly attempts highlights that walking really is a fundamental skill, and one that has to be learned and practised as much as any other.

study from Loughborough University reported that nearly a third of 4-year-olds are not physically ready for school because they lack certain motor skills, like holding a pencil or sitting up straight. One reason for this is attributed to a lack of physical activity during the early years. For younger children, walking is a basic but essential skill that helps to improve their balance, posture and coordination.

Improves mental health and cognitive function

Kids getting on top of you? Or at each other constantly? Try going for a walk. Yes, walking is a great way to reduce stress, boost mood and improve their cognitive abilities too.

Walking stimulates the mind and body, enhancing children’s overall cognitive function and leading to improved academic performance. Not only does walking improve kids’ concentration and attention span, it also improves their memory and ability to focus.

A bonding experience

Walking is a simple activity that all ages can enjoy… yes, even Grandpa with his walking stick. And of course, getting outside has an incredibly powerful effect on our mental health – a wholesome cocktail of vitamin D, fresh air and endorphins. It’s easy to walk with friends and family, giving a social aspect to going for a walk which can be enjoyed by everyone.

Improves social skills

Do you find it’s awkward getting kids to talk around the dinner table? But then once you’re outside they won’t stop? Walking with friends and family is a great way to connect with each other; there are people, cars, animals and nature to chat about, meaning the conversation will flow freely.

Whether you’re young or old, a walk is a bonding experience and greatly improves kids’ social skills by being able to talk comfortably with other children or adults.

Challenges you may face


Ahh yes, we’ve all been there. It’s cold and wet and nobody wants to go outside. Walking is actually a great activity when all the grounds are closed and regular activities are cancelled. A solid pair of gum boots and a raincoat are all you need to turn this ship around. 

Depending on the age of your kids, rain and wind can be fun for all. If they’re younger, be like Peppa Pig and jump in muddy puddles or, for the older kids, take them down to the beach or find a windy spot, run around and brace the elements!


When out and about younger children and toddlers can run amok so always be mindful that they’re close, especially when you’re on busy roads. Use these walks as an opportunity to teach road safety and respect for nature and the environment. 

When walking in the bush there are other dangers, such as water or possibly even insects or snakes. Again, make sure any younger kids are within easy reach and you can see them, so you can alert them to any risks. For very young kids, a little backpack with a lead is a great way to give them freedom without risking them running off. Walking is fun, but as with most activities in this great country, it carries some risks. 


What’s that whine you just heard? The one you get when you suggest doing something different. “I don’t want to” or “That sounds boring”. It can be incredibly frustrating. 

In these situations, point out the benefits to them, use positive language and make it sound fun. Try saying things like, “Let’s go and explore this creek…” or ”There’s a really cool waterfall down here!”  

Motivating kids can be difficult, but once they’re outside and moving, those complaints soon disappear. Remember, stay positive and find ways to spark their imagination.

How to make it fun

Making walking fun is a great way to motivate kids to get outside. Kids respond well to using their imagination so there are plenty of ways to spark this creative side and keep them moving at the same time.

Play games

There are heaps of games you can play while walking. Here are some ideas:

  • I Spy: this game is a classic but it never gets old! Spot things beginning with a letter… or for younger kids this could be spotting things of a certain colour.
  • Treasure hunt: make a list of things the kids need to spot and/or find. You could get them to bring a little bag or basket to collect these items as well. Prizes for the winner are always motivational.
  • Alphabet game: start with the letter A, then B, C etc. and find things on your walk that begin with that letter. Everyone has to find something or you can do one letter per person.
  • Storytelling: this is a great way to spark imagination when in natural environments. Start with a line from a story, get the next person to add their line, the next theirs and so on…
  • Art: bring a sketchpad and stop occasionally to draw things you love or collect items to make a collage or picture when you get home.
  • Trackable devices give many opportunities to measure speed, steps and distance. Older kids enjoy setting timers and seeing how far or fast they can walk and run. Challenge your kids to hit a certain number of steps in a walk or a certain distance.
  • Set challenges: who can find things the fastest? Set the kids certain challenges to find things – a rock shaped a certain way, a colour of stone or leaf, a particular tree, etc.
  • Role plays: pretend you’re lost in the jungle and trying to get out. These role play games are a fun way to get younger kids excited.

Walk the dog

One way to get the family moving is to get the kids to walk the dog. Dog walking is a great bonding experience for the whole family, and often kids enjoy taking responsibility for their four-legged friends. A well-walked dog is a happy and healthy dog so make sure the kids are aware they are helping their dog to stay fit too.

Walking is a great way to get the whole family moving. It boosts everyone’s mood and lets the kids burn off some steam while getting fit and healthy. Remember, safety is a priority so be sure kids are aware of any hazards in their surroundings before letting them run wild.  

Join communities

One suggestion to start your more active life is to join one of the many free Park Run communities. Taking part in this Saturday morning 5km event by walking instead of running is fine – everyone does it at their own pace, ability and fitness level. The most important thing is to start, and the sooner the better. Not just for your health, but for your family’s as well.

Make walking a part of your children’s daily routine

All kids naturally love to move if encouraged by their parents and grandparents, and in general exceed the 10,000-step count daily. So 12,000-15,000 steps is recommended for kids of 8 years and above. 

Though with excessive screen time, most children, adolescents and adults too are not reaching the recommended daily exercise levels and far exceeding the screen time limits.

Here at Childhood Obesity Prevention, we encourage kids to do some form of walking every day. Even if it’s just walking to and from school every day. 

The current physical activity guidelines for children aged 5-14 recommend an hour of vigorous exercise a day. If your child is already active in sports, an hour of walking per day might not be essential, but it’s still a great idea to encourage it. Think of it as a way to enjoy some quality family-time, perhaps before and after school, on weekends and during holidays. 

Like most things in life, it depends on the child, their age, fitness and what other activities they are already doing. All forms of healthy exercise should be combined with the so-called Healthy Habits for Healthy Life advice for children of different ages – see the NSW Health Prohealthy kids website link, which includes some translated resources.

Let’s move more and more

Rather than aiming to hit a certain number of steps each day, try to get the kids out for a daily walk, or add a short stroll into your daily routine to pick up groceries etc.

The weekends are a great opportunity to organise a family walk and go and explore your local park or natural environment, plus there are plenty of ways to make this fun.

If you're wondering about the choices your family is making and how they affect your health, we're here to lend a hand. We offer a variety of options to fit your family's needs, including personalised consultations and our book, Ride to Life, designed to support you on your path to healthier eating habits.