By: Mary Pat Baldauf
It’s a widely accepted premise that to help achieve good health, we should strive to take 10,000 steps – equal to roughly five miles – a day. If you walk 10,000 steps a day, you’ll burn between 2,000 – 3,500 extra calories per week, which can result in a better health profile and longer lifespan.
Five miles? If you’re like me, you already have more things on your to-do list than there are hours in a day; there’s no way you can and “walk five miles” to the list, much less cross it off as done. The good news? It’s easier than you think, and with a few small changes, you’ll be up to 10,000 steps in no time.
Because you can’t achieve what you can’t measure, get started by determining your baseline step measurement. Buy a pedometer and wear it every day for a week without making any changes in your activity level. Put it on when you get up; wear it until bed time. Record your daily steps, and by the end of the week, you’ll know your average daily steps. Note: Many people only average 1,000 – 3,000 steps a day. If you don’t get as many as you think, don’t worry – you’re just getting started!
Next, set the reasonable goal of increasing your daily steps each week by 500 until you reach 10,000. If you currently average 3,000 steps each day, your goal for week one is 3,500 each day. Your week 2 goal is 4,000 each day. Continue to increase each week and you should be averaging 10,000 steps by the end of 14 weeks.
If you’re still trying to figure out when you’re going to walk five miles, don’t worry. There are lots of ways you can sneak steps into your day:
- Set a Timer: Whether you set your phone timer or set a time in your mind, make a point to get up from your desk and walk around the office on a regular basis. At the top of each hour, I get up from my desk, do a quick stretch and walk around for a few minutes. Sometimes I walk to the end of the building, other times just around my desk. It doesn’t matter as long as you’re getting extra steps.
- Capitalize on the Size of your Bladder: Opt for the bathroom farthest away from your desk, even one that forces you to take the stairs to a different floor. The additional minutes spent walking might not seem like much, but they always add up over the course of the day. I not always choose the furthest bathroom, but also the furthest stall!
- Park It: Whether you’re at the grocery store or church, don’t circle the parking lot for the closest space – take one further out. Besides getting extra steps, you’ll also save gas, time and stress.
- Don’t Multitask: Instead of working efficiently at tasks, work inefficiently. Fold your laundry in the living room, then put it up a few items or even just one at a time. At work, make several trips to the fax machine or copier instead of saving everything for one trip. Once I get all of the cold stuff out, I actually like to unload the groceries one bag at a time.
- Take the Stairs: It’s an oldie, but a goodie. Challenge yourself to take the stairs up and down instead of taking the elevator. On an escalator? Walk it. My favorite thing about taking the stairs? The reaction I get when I turn down the elevator or ask where the stairs are. Try it; you’ll see what I mean.
- Skip It: The drive-thru window, that is. Whether you’re at the bank, fast food restaurant or pharmacy, get out and walk inside. One drive-thru I’ve ditched? The one at the dry cleaner!
- Pace Yourself: Find opportunities to walk or pace when you would normally sit or stand. Pace behind your desk while you’re on a call at work. Traveling? Walk the terminal instead of reading the paper; there will be plenty of time to sit on the plane. I try to walk around the house when brushing my teeth.
- Shop ‘til You Drop: Whether you purchase veggies at the local farmer’s market or window shop on Main Street, shopping is always a fun way to get steps! I always walk up and down each aisle at the grocery store, whether I need anything on a particular aisle or not.
- Divide and Conquer: Don’t have an extra 30 minutes to walk? Try three 10-minute walks throughout the day. Even six five-minute walks will work!
- Think Outside of the Box: Challenge yourself to find a new and different ways to increase your steps. Remember, a few extra steps here and there can add up. Instead of sitting in the back of the movie theater, walk closer to the front. Don’t stop the car at the mailbox; park the car first, then walk to get the mail. Usually get the newspaper on your way out of the driveway? Walk up the driveway to get it before you get in the car.
Do you wear a pedometer? If so, how do you increase your steps? What is the biggest challenge of wearing a pedometer? If not, would you ever consider wearing one? What’s holding you back?