It’s been a few weeks now, and I’m thrilled to say that it’s been a miraculous investment in my fitness and health. It’s helped encourage me to move more throughout the day as someone who had been pretty sedentary for the past couple of years working from home.
It’s even helped me push through my weight loss plateau to lose those final few pounds I’d been wanting to drop. As someone who loves having access to data, it’s been empowering to know how much I’ve moved throughout the day and how many hours I’ve slept. This information is twofold – on the one hand, you know if you’re not getting enough steps or sleep, and on the other hand, you’re able to be proactive about achieving your goals because you constantly have the reminder on your wrist.
Why 10k Steps?
So, why 10k steps a day? The origin of this number is admittedly arbitrary and was more of a marketing campaign for a Japanese pedometer created by Yamasa Clock, who was concerned the Japanese lifestyle was becoming too sedentary. He named the pedometer Manpo-Kei, which translates in English to 10,000 step-meter, supposedly because it had a nice ring to it and because the Japanese character for 10,000 (万) resembles a person walking. Regardless of the origin of this coveted number, the American Heart Association recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise. Since more movement is better for our cardiovascular health and longevity and since most people are living pretty sedentary lives, it’s safe to say that aiming for 10k steps is a reasonable goal that would improve most people’s health.
Numerous studies have been conducted to test the supposed magic of getting 10k steps, and while they have not found any particular grandeur in 10,000 steps particularly, they have been able to replicate findings that taking more steps reduces all-cause mortality. A study conducted on 17,000 women found that those who walked 4,400 steps per day had significantly reduced mortality rates compared to women who got only 2,700 steps per day. This study also found that mortality was more significantly reduced per every 1,000 additional steps the women took up to 7,500 steps, at which point the benefits leveled off. Another study conducted on adults who were at least 40 years old found that the participants who took fewer than 4,000 steps per day had the highest mortality. This study found that with every additional 1,000 steps the participants took, mortality continued to lower. This benefit leveled off at 12,000 steps. The best part? These studies showed that the speed and intensity of the steps had no bearing on mortality rates.
So let's get into the 10 ways you can increase your step count and hit that 10k a day goal.
1. Go on At Least One Daily Walk
Over the past couple of years, I’ve been enjoying going for walks here and there, but I’ve honestly never been so consistent about it until I got a Fitbit. Now when it rolls around 2 pm, I take a glance at my Fitbit, and if I see I’m pretty low on steps, I instantly want to go for a walk. Notice I said want, which is huge. Fitbits really do brainwash you into loving walking.
If you have a dog, then you’re in luck because your walks aren’t optional, and this is a great opportunity to make your dog fall even more in love with you. These intentional walks have been a great way to let off stress and recalibrate my mind. If I run into writer’s block or if I’ve been procrastinating my work all day, a nice stride around the neighborhood does something akin to realigning my chakras because I come back feeling reborn. I highly recommend it for fitness and mental well-being.
2. Be Less Efficient
I see what you’re doing when you bring in 10 bags from the grocery store all at once. Don’t be a hero – start being less efficient. This is a life hack that will score you more steps throughout the day with ease. Do things the old-school way. Put in a little more effort than is necessary in our modern-day world of convenience. This can mean taking the stairs instead of the elevator, taking multiple trips to bring in all of your bags, parking further away from the shops, and walking somewhere around the corner instead of driving. You might think these little things won’t make a difference, but they do when you continually make these choices throughout the day. These habits can contribute to thousands of extra steps per day.
Take the stairs instead of the elevator, or make multiple trips to bring in all of your bags.
3. Get Invested in an Active Hobby
Live out your younger years, when you still had aspirations to pursue hobbies that made you happy. Do things just because you can. Take dance classes, join an adult’s gymnastics class, learn how to play a sport like tennis or basketball, or run a 5k with a friend. Getting your steps in doesn’t have to be a chore; it should be fun, and you should use it as an opportunity to try new things with people in your life.
4. Walk When You Normally Wouldn’t
Think of all the times in your day when you’re just sitting or standing there with nothing to do. Maybe you’re waiting in line, talking on the phone, writing emails, or brushing your teeth. Now, do those same things while walking, either around the house or in place. Since you should be brushing your teeth for at least two minutes twice a day, that’s an additional 4 minutes of walking you otherwise wouldn’t have done. Everything counts, so make your life easier by squeezing in steps where you can. You don’t need to go on intentional walks around the neighborhood if you move enough throughout the day.
5. Make Step Targets throughout the Day
Speaking of moving enough throughout the day, a great way to make sure you’re doing that is to set mini step goals throughout the day. If you have a Fitbit or some other type of pedometer, you can get reminders sent to your wrist every hour to get a certain amount of steps. You can adjust the times that these reminders are sent and what your step goal is. I’ve found this to be incredibly motivating, and it draws my attention to my step count when it would normally be elsewhere. Let’s say you work at a desk for 8 hours a day, which most of us are. That’s a lot of sitting when you could be moving. By taking mini walking breaks for a few minutes, you get in those steps without sacrificing your work time. These can also help you feel mentally refreshed so you can refocus with better concentration when returning to your work.
6. Drink More Water
Yes, one of the tips is to drink more water, but I’m not implying that drinking water itself will increase your steps – just what will happen afterward. I personally drink a ton of water every single day so I’m constantly needing to go to the bathroom. Is this annoying? Sure, but it definitely gets me up, out of my seat. I notice a lot of the people around me hardly drink any water. Unless you’re already plowing down water through the day, you could probably benefit from drinking more of it. This will cause you to take more bathroom breaks which means more walking. Just how much more walking could you possibly do by drinking water? Trust me, if you’re drinking enough, you’ll be sick of going to the bathroom, and if you’re in public, you’ll have to walk around to find one. That’s the sweet spot!
7. Use a Treadmill
Don’t go out and spend thousands of dollars on a treadmill if you don’t have one, simply go to a gym or befriend someone with a treadmill and use theirs. Okay, you don’t actually need a treadmill. That’s the great thing about walking, anyone can do it, anywhere, anytime, as long as you have functioning legs. However, I’ve been staying somewhere with access to a treadmill, and it’s kind of changed my life. There’s something so inviting and easy about going on the treadmill that time just slips by, and before I know it, I’ve been walking or jogging for up to an hour. This enables me to knock out the majority of my daily steps in one go so I don’t have to worry about it.
Watch your favorite show or listen to a podcast while you walk.
If you have access to a treadmill, it can be a nice way to set aside some time in your day to walk while watching your favorite show or listening to a podcast on your phone. You can alter your speed and incline without needing to worry about walking to a certain place and back, especially if you live somewhere with less-than-ideal weather or you don’t live in the best area to be walking around by yourself. I’ve been alternating between speed walking on no-incline and trying the treadmill workout popularized by Lauren Giraldo known as 12-3-30. This is a challenge to walk on a 12 incline at a speed of 3 mph for 30 minutes. While you may get more steps walking on zero incline at a high speed, this will definitely increase the intensity of your walk and get you dripping with sweat. If you’re someone who needs more of a challenge, I recommend trying it, and as you get used to it, you can up your speed a bit or continue for longer.
8. Walk Around the Shops
I love looking for excuses to walk around and window shop. One of my favorite activities is going to the grocery store and leisurely picking out my grocery staples for the week. Ask a friend to go to the mall with you or ask if they want to go walk around a busy area of town. This gets you to mindlessly walk around and enjoy yourself while improving your activity.
9. Get Your Chores Done
Where before I used to loathe cleaning the bathroom or tidying up my room, now I take initiative because I know it’s going to increase my step count while simultaneously achieving something. Those chores need to get done anyway, so you might as well find a positive in getting them done. You might even find yourself doing extra cleaning around the house, which is a win-win.
10. Follow Along with a Walking Exercise Video
I’ve always been someone who likes to do follow-along exercise videos. I have memories of being 13 and watching Exercise TV, following along to random pilates workouts, which is maybe a little weirder than I realized, but to me it was fun, and nothing’s changed. Go on YouTube and look up some walking exercise videos. I love growwithjo because she’s a mother who lost over 50 pounds from at-home exercises and now posts motivating and easy to follow along exercise videos on YouTube. She has a lot of walking videos and makes them interesting by incorporating different movements and popular music throughout the video.
Walking has so many benefits for your mental health, longevity, and weight loss goals. It’s low-impact, easy to do, accessible, and completely free. While you by no means need to invest in a Fitbit or any other type of pedometer to increase your movement, I would highly recommend it if you’re actively trying to lose weight or get in better shape. There are apps you can download on your phone that will also track your steps, or you can purchase a cheap pedometer. Walking does wonders for your overall health, but it’s an undervalued tool for weight loss. Increasing your steps by a few thousand than what you normally take throughout the day can help you shed those last few pounds, especially because calories burned through non-exercise activity thermogenesis accounts for more of your daily energy expenditure than intentional exercise. A pedometer will help you understand how much you already move so you know what specific step count you should be aiming for.
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