Walking Only 4,000 Steps/Day Makes You Smarter. If You Can, Why Would You Not?

Madelaine Weiss
3 min readSep 26, 2023

Table of Contents

What’s Great About Walking?

Agency, among other things. Humans love agency. So many clients use the word. Merriam-Webster defines it as “the capacity, condition, or state of acting or of exerting power.”

A new study tells us that babies birth their agency very early on, as they struggle with and delight in their interaction with their brains, their bodies, and their environment. Learning to walk is only one example.

Walking is a superfood for the brain. From a recent New York Times report:

Researchers analyzed 17 studies that looked at how many steps people took, typically in a weeklong period, and followed up on their health outcomes after around seven years. They concluded that a habit of walking just under 4,000 steps per day reduced the risk of dying from any cause, including cardiovascular disease.

And how it makes us smarter and happier too is that walking is a hugely complicated cognitive task that:

…loosens us up to make new connections that help spark new ideas. It dampens down the stress and anxiety that keep us from curiosity and learning. It can even change your personality for the better over time.

And yet, despite how hard-won this superpower is, many who can walk take walking for granted. Walking has even become a should. Have to confess that I feel it myself every time my watch says it is time to get up on my feet. Why can’t I just sit?

What’s Wrong with Sitting?

From an earlier post on sitting too much:

It’s not just mental health. There’s a long list of physical problems associated with sitting too much:

  • Large leg and butt muscle weakening, which can result in more falls and strains
  • Bowel dysfunction
  • Weight gain and metabolic syndrome
  • Back and hip joint compression and degeneration
  • Varicose veins and deep vein thrombosis (clots)
  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • Cancer, e.g., lung, uterine, colon
  • Diabetes, 112% higher risk for sitters
  • Heart disease, 147% higher risk for sitters

Yikes. And what am I doing right now? Yeah, I’m sitting, which is how I love to write, with the laptop, well…on my lap.

There is something about sitting that I love. Rafael Leonardo (my Havanese puppy) doesn’t sit like I do. Only when he wants something. Then. He sits and stares to make it happen.

Animals in general don’t sit as much as we do. And why humans like to sit so much was nowhere to be found, not by me anyway, on the internet. So, if any of you know why humans sit so much do tell.

For now, I am just going to guess that sitting helped us to survive and thrive as a species because it’s the best of both worlds between lying down and standing. That is, sitting conserves energy (25%) at the same time that it keeps us upright enough to jump into action a lot quicker and easier than if we were lying down. That’s good but, as with most things, too much of this good thing could become not good at all.

What Are We Doing?

Here are some recent stats: Sedentary jobs have increased by 83% since 1950, and the average person sits 12 hours per day. Yeah, that’s not good. We can do better.

Even justsstand.org, and Ergotron site, wants us to not just use their standing desks but to get walking too, but they make the point that even if people have walking meetings, let’s say, this doesn’t prevent them from also sitting way too much. In other words, there is plenty of time in the day to take walks and also still sit too much.

Unless…we go with what The Mayo Clinic suggests, which is standing up every 30 minutes no matter what. Whether we are watching TV, taking a call, meeting with someone, or doing nothing much at all: Just. Get. Up.

Practice, practice, practice…and let us know what you find. And for help with this or something else, Contact Me at madelaineweiss.com

Warm regrds,


Photo by Freepik



Madelaine Weiss

Licensed Psychotherapist, Board Certified Executive, Career, Life Coach. LICSW, MBA, BCC