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How I manage more than 20,000 steps every day. Part 2.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

This is the second of two blogs on how I manage to walk 20,000 or more steps every day. As I write, it is pouring rain and that is appropriate because today I want to focus on getting the steps in when nature does not cooperate: when it is too wet, too hot, too muggy, too buggy, too cold, or too smoggy to walk outside.

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I will be honest: it is not easy. Today, for example, it is already 2:30 in the afternoon and I only have 7,500 steps in. So I’ve got to kick it up a notch to meet my goal.


Let me start with the easy (and obvious) ways. If you want my less obvious tips, skip down a paragraph. Bad weather is, of course, not a problem if you are fortunate enough to own a treadmill or have access to a gym with the machines. You can do great things on them: in 2000 Christine Clark won the U.S. Olympic marathon trials. The kicker was that she was from Alaska and did most of her training on treadmills during the long arctic winters. When I use them at my college, I choose one near a window and people-watch to distract myself from “gerbil-wheel-boredom” but many people watch TV, listen to music, or read books. I have found by trial and error that I don’t read very effectively above two and a half to three miles per hour but I have seen others reading at much higher speeds.


Of course, some people are not fortunate enough to have gyms near them, and some cannot afford either home treadmills or gym memberships. Others cannot afford the time to spend hours at the gym. It is important to me personally to keep this in mind. I see the problem of obesity as a social justice issue. Rates of obesity and the subsequent medical complications vary with class and race, and having both the money and time necessary to change one’s life also vary with income levels. Even “free” resources such as SparkPeople are limited to those with access to computers and the internet. I try to keep that in mind when writing these tips.

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When gyms are not an option, big box stores and malls come to the rescue. In my town Walmart is open until 11 PM, seven nights a week, and I have resorted on to doing laps around the inside perimeter on numerous occasions when the gym was closed and I needed the steps. Some days I would get bored with one store and do twenty laps in Walmart, twenty laps in Target, and then work my way down through the other chains.

Once during a snowstorm, I climbed up and down stairs in my apartment building because I couldn’t safely get out even to the big box store. I find running in place exhausting, but about two months ago, I incorporated marching in place to help me get steps in. It involves a lot less pounding on my body (think knees) and on the floor (think downstairs neighbors!). I have also begun marching in place while I brush my teeth, empty the dishwasher, fold laundry, and watch TV (and I do hope all my male SparkFriends are doing all those activities in their homes!). This is useful because it incorporates movement into something you are doing already, so no additional time is required. If you find marching in place while watching TV exhausting, do it slower! Even standing still increases your basal metabolic rate by 10% over sitting.


About three months ago I switched to standing desks both for my desks at home and at work. You can buy expensive standing workstations (e.g. Google “Kangaroo standing desk”) but I built mine for $5 dollars by putting some concrete blocks under my existing desk. As I said in the previous paragraph, simply standing at your desk increases your basal metabolic rate, but the real benefits come because you are much more likely to walk across the room to get something because you don’t have the inertia hurdle of getting up out of your chair. The chair is the killer. Of course, if you incorporate marching in place, then you are off to the races. I have learned to read and type effectively while marching at my standing desk: that way I take a sedentary activity that I am already doing and make it active (an active activity?!). For example, I am walking while writing this blog. You will recall that in the second paragraph I had 7,500 steps: I am currently at 12,261. (I don’t type that slowly, I’ve been working on other things at the same time).

Dr. James Levine, a doctor at the Mayo Clinic, thinks that the solution to the obesity crisis is for all of us to increase our NEAT. NEAT stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis. It is all those calories that we burn when we are not actively exercising: fidgeting, walking to the bathroom, rolling over in our sleep, and so on. I agree that we must change both our food and exercise ENVIRONMENTS for permanent weight loss and increased health and that this involves finding ways to become more active when we are NOT exercising. Levine is a big fan of treadmill desks (check them out on Google). I have access to a treadmill desk for my own research and they are certainly great for getting the steps in at work, but I am not a fan for two reasons. The first is that most treadmill desks will run you at least a thousand dollars, and as I said above, I am opposed to solutions that are only available to the wealthy. The second objection is ecological. Treadmill desks run on electricity: two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese. If we all switch to treadmill desks, we are going to need a lot more coal-fired power plants.

I’m almost done here. Is anybody still reading? In addition to the tips above, I also do all the usual things: I park farther away from the store, take the stairs instead of the elevator, etc., etc. Sometimes it only adds a few steps, but to me there is no such thing as a bad step. Each one brings me one closer to my goal.

Best to you all. ~ TaiChiDancer (currently at 13,388 and counting)

Follow-up: It is now after 11 PM and still raining. I'm going to bed soon. I don't know what my final count will be, but I'm currently over 30,000. Anything is possible, friends. Let's do this.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    627 days ago
    emoticon Great suggestions! Thanks
    1500 days ago
  • KELPIE57
    Thank you for the tips!
    1594 days ago
  • SKATER787
    Good job. Treadmills at home or the gym are not the answer either because you can step off at any time. Walking to work is the best. Once you started you have to complete the journey. You can't quit. Likewise, you have to make it back home. Great alternate plan you have where you drive part way. Also, Dr. Levine has come around and acknowledged that standing desk is just as effective. It's the sitting that is the real enemy. Unfortunately, Dr. Levine didn't get on board with the standing desk when he presented his treadmill desk, an impractical solution for the mass. I was really disappointed at him for missing the opportunity for not having a lower cost solution for the mass.
    1618 days ago
    After reading the 1st post on tips, I quickly searched for the 2nd post! I enjoyed reading both. Very inspiring!! It's amazing what we can accomplish when we allow ourselves to think big, take action and become aware & track our progress!
    1631 days ago
    This is a very helpful, awesome blog!
    1638 days ago
    Great ideas.
    1640 days ago
    1640 days ago
    Thanks for the tip on how to get 20K - I usually get 20K on holidays as I tend to walk more :D

    Agree about walking in malls. It's like hitting 2 birds with one stone - I enjoy walking in the mall and can get more steps!

    I think I'm guilty of using chair too much. Last week, I rolled in my chair very often to do simple tasks like switching on-off lights, closing door (I was in a course and I was nearest to the switch lights and door so I was sort of a custodian of lights and door). Rolling around with my chair feel like having my own wheelchair! I'll remember on what you said about chair everytime I feel too lazy to get off from my chair and start rolling :D
    1643 days ago
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    1645 days ago
    emoticon blog! I'm lucky enough to have an elliptical at my house. But that can tire out my legs quickly (I have ataxic cerebral palsy). I also do Leslie Sansone videos.

    Thank you for the reminder of marching in place while watching TV! Or even just standing. Along with being disabled, I also work from home on the computer. I need to remember to get up ever hour and stretch.

    Thanks for sharing your tips on how to get more steps in. My step count is low today. Only 2,564. It was a rest day though, but still. Gotta get moving!
    1646 days ago
    Great blog. You're awesome at 30,000 steps.
    1646 days ago
    Thank you for sharing- great ideas.
    1646 days ago
    Great tips!
    1646 days ago
    Your two blogs inspired me! I have added a tracker to my phone so I can keep track of my daily steps. emoticon
    1646 days ago
    Great tips! Especially those that you can do at home, and while doing other things that need to be accomplished. Just have to learn to march, read, chop, wash, etc, simultaneously...
    1647 days ago
    YOu are truely an inspiriation and I am not sure I can every get that many daily but it does make me work harder at getting my 10000 daily.

    Thanks for sharing what works for you.
    1647 days ago
    I have had a 10,000 step challenge (for myself) for several years, and very good at meeting it, since the first of August I have raised it to 15,000 steps, I made 20,000 steps one time, and hope to gradually get up there, if not daily at least often, but I don't seem to have the time or maybe inclination to do it, I do walk in place most all the time from washing dishes to brushing my teeth, I use my treadmill mostly when I need to get more steps, and walk, go to the gym, and just walk, way to go, on standing and working on your computer, not sure I could get that part done, with spelling and all, but I try to stay motivated, and increasing my steps sure helps.
    1647 days ago
    Thanks for all the positive feedback, SparkFriends!

    @KALISWALKER. Sorry to hear that vibration from your treadmill desk broke your laptop. Ouch! The treadmill desk I use in my research is a "Lifespan" treadmill specifically designed to go under a desk and I built my own desk to go with it (for about $80) that was designed to (1) give me a bigger working surface than pre-packaged treadmill desks and (2) to be vibrationally isolated from the treadmill itself.
    1647 days ago

    Comment edited on: 9/12/2013 5:52:33 PM
    Awesome tips! Thanks again for sharing how to get more steps in!
    1647 days ago
    Great part two and great ideas some of which I can incorporate immediately!

    1647 days ago
    You've really thought this through! Super ideas. I used to say that only thunderstorms and ice would keep me from walking outside, but that was before I moved away from suburban sidewalks and neighborhoods. Out here, walking is not so easy. Malls and NEAT are two ways I can get my steps in. Thanks for posting!
    1647 days ago
    You have really thought this out in a very useful way for anyone who wants to increase steps. I'm currently not using a step counter, but do know how motivating they can be. Thanks for posting.
    1647 days ago
    Great tips. Thanks so much. I've been having trouble some days hitting my 10,000, so I'll start incorporating some of your suggestions.
    1647 days ago
    You KNOW I love this blog! I am happy to learn some new tricks and feel super proud that I already do many of them! Thank you for continuing to be an inspiration to all of us! ....Oh and thank you from all of woman kind for doing the laundry and emptying the dishwasher!!

    Be well, spark friend!! emoticon

    1647 days ago
    Great blog !

    Im impressed that you walk 10 miles a day ! During the week days, if I'm just walking and not running, I can walk 5+ miles. On the weekends, when I run errands 8-10 isn't unusual. I really do enjoy walking. It's tough when it's raining. I hate walking in wet feet.

    Great blog !

    1647 days ago
    You are creative. I made a treadmill desk but I think there vibration the broke my laptop. So I like your suggestions. I have 17,000 steps so far today and will get my 20,000 also.

    Keep going!
    1647 days ago
    Great workout ideas to get your steps in! I just do high intensity workouts every day. I know that exercise and eating right are important, so I do incorporate some of the other ideas you mentioned like taking the stairs instead of the elevators, Parking my car further away from the store, and even just walking inside the house on days when it's bad weather outside. Right now I am not currently employed so that is when I ramp up my exercise time a bit to burn more calories in a week. The best of wishes with your goals! You have a great attitude and that will take you many places! emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1647 days ago
  • MJRVIC2000
    GREAT WORKOUT and ATTITUDE! That's the difference bwtween making a decision and making a cimmitment. God Bless YOU! Vic.
    1647 days ago
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