10,000 steps. That's the number of steps most healthy living experts agree people should get each day. 10,000 steps. That's a lot.
It's 5 miles, or about 90 minutes of moderately-paced walking. It can be done, but if you, like me, live in a suburban, car-focused environment (i.e. I don't walk to work), getting those 10,000 steps a day may be more challenging that we'd like. But it can be done, and I'm here to tell you how I make it happen—and how you might can make it happen, too.
Before we start, you'll need a pedometer. It really doesn't have to be fancy. I wore a $4 pedometer for a whole semester during my Fitness Walking course in college. It did well. Today, however, there are so many smart fitness trackers and apps that you'd be silly not to commit to one if you're serious about getting moving and getting fit. I personally use Jawbone's UP2 band. For my fitness level and activity, it performs beautifully. I've also personally tested Jawbone's Move and the Fitbit Charge HR. All perform great for people who want to get a better understanding of how much they move (or how much they don't) in a given day.
Here, my tips for hitting your number each day:
1. Be entertained. I'd be lying if I said I don't have to use gym time to get in my steps. I either get up every morning and go to the gym before work or swing by on my way home. On weight-lifting days, I walk 30 minutes (about 3,500 steps). On cardio days, I walk or use the elliptical for an hour (about 7,000 steps). But the treadmill can be tedious. Step after step after step. I have to distract myself or I find a reason to end the walk after 15 minutes. That's where streaming comes in. Of course, in the a.m., morning shows are entertaining enough to keep me distracted, but I've been on a Game of Thrones kick as of late. Each episode is about 55 minutes, which is ideal to keep me walking the whole hour. I watch the show and just slip away while my body moves and my step count adds up.
2. Join a team. The Jawbone app allows me to connect to my friends and coworkers who all use Jawbone bands, too. This is great for keeping me motivated. In fact, I've found it becomes somewhat competitive. I am quick to "praise" all of my friends who have reached their daily goal, and they're quick to return the favor. But I know that if I don't reach 10,000 steps, I don't get my daily "praise" reward.
The Social Diet: Read how the Jawbone app helped some of my fellow co-workers lose 20 pounds and shed inches while they took part in a 20-week social dieting experiment.
3. Break it up. You don't need to get your 10,000 steps all at once. You can divide that up throughout your day. In fact, you want to divide it up. Research shows that sitting for long periods of time can be detrimental to your health. In the long term, it may lead to obesity, increased blood pressure, and high blood sugar. Additionally, being idle for a long period of time even if you do get exercise can be just as bad. You want to move a lot and often. My Jawbone band is set to remind me to get up and walk every 45 minutes. (You can pick a length of time for a reminder.) When I get buzzed, I get up from my desk, walk around the office floor, then sit back down to work. It takes 5 minutes maximum, but if I do that 10 times a day, I've walked almost an hour, or close to 5,000 steps.
4. Every step counts. It might be the most cliche advice, but it's the truest. Do everything you can to add steps to your day. Park at the back of a parking lot (as long as it's safe) and walk in. Take the stairs instead of an elevator. Walk the long way to the restroom. Instead of an email, stop by and see a co-worker. Face-to-face interaction is always appreciated, and you'll add steps to your count. If you're out shopping, make an extra lap around the store. When I'm at the grocery store, I purposefully walk every aisle before I leave. Every little bit adds up.
5. Take Fido for a walk. Your furry best friend needs exercise, too, so when you get up in the morning and when you get home in the evening, strap on a leash, and go out for a walk. The extra movement will be good for your waistline and your little friend's, too.
One last note: Crawl before you walk. (Well, not literally.) A goal of 10,000 steps is admirable. It's what the American Heart Association and the Centers for Disease Control endorse as a healthy, attainable daily step goal. But if you've been living a mostly sedentary life for the past few years or, heck, decades, let the 10,000-step goal be an aspiration you will work up to.