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By now you've probably heard the latest research. Sitting is even worse for our health (and fitness) than we thought. And even if you do exercise regularly, you still face health risks if you are sedentary for the rest of your day (you know, the other 23 hours you're not working out in the gym). On top of these facts, some researchers argue that when it comes to weight loss or weight management, it's not even necessarily the people who "exercise" the most who come out on top: it's the people who are simply more "active" (think on their feet) that tend to be the leanest.
The truth is: If you're not moving, you're losing out on major health and weight-management boosters. No matter what your fitness level, setting a goal to move more can be a motivating way to improve your health. But just how do you accumulate 10,000 steps (roughly 5 miles) in a day?
We've all heard the advice to park further away, walk to the furthest restroom in the office, or to take the stairs whenever possible. And these small bits DO add up. But if you're looking for some realistic ways to make a big difference, I've got you covered. Here are some ways of breaking up that lofty goal throughout the day into manageable chunks that will get you up and active for a healthier body.
Smart Ways to Get 10,000 Steps a Day
Try This Trifecta. Consider breaking your step goal into three smaller goals throughout the day: a morning walk, a midday walk, and an evening walk. Make one a 3-mile power walking workout (in whichever slot you have the most time), and then squeeze in a 20-minute walk (roughly 1 mile) at lunch and after dinner.
Every Hour on the Hour. If you were to split up these steps during a normal workday (8-9 hours), that works out to just over 1,000 steps per hour. That means about a half mile walk (less than 10 minutes of time), spread out across the day. It won't be realistic for everyone to do this at work, but it may be realistic for some people to take a few 10-minute breaks during the workday—then squeeze the remaining 10-minute walks in before or after work. If you split up your steps throughout your regular waking (instead of just working) hours, that makes it even easier. Set a timer on your phone or computer and walk just 5 minutes every hour of the day until bedtime. DONE!
Power Hour. Challenge yourself each day to accumulate as many steps as possible during one hour of the day. This can be part of your daily workout (wear your tracker while you ride the exercise bike, use the treadmill or run). Continue working harder over time so that you can cover more ground in the same amount of time!
6 Legs in One. The easiest way for me to accumulate steps in a given day is to walk my dog. She's the best fitness partner around! We have a daily routine of walking in the morning and the evening—yes, on top of exercising or, some days, as my exercise for the day. Splitting up your walks into roughly two 2.5-mile sets is good for both of you. This is also a healthy routine that the whole family can enjoy together! No dog? Volunteer at your local shelter.
Wear an Activity Tracker. I am a huge advocate for wearable fitness devices (like the Spark Activity Tracker) that track your steps and overall activity each day. This small reminder will encourage you to get up more, take longer route, use the stairs—and then some. As someone who was already exercising (even running!) regularly, I was shocked to find out after wearing my own tracker that I didn't come anywhere near 10,000 steps per day—not even on the days I worked out! Now I wear one every day. And it makes me want to get on my feet in every little way that I can to hit that daily goal. It's an amazing motivator! (Learn more about the Spark and see what a good little walker Ginger is in the video below!)
Buddy Up. Since I broke my foot last summer, I've been really limited in the types of exercise I can do while it continues to heal. Still unable to run, what I can do is walk. Walking alone became really boring for me after so many months, so I started calling up friends to walk with me. I know this is the advice you hear all the time—that exercising with a buddy is more fun and will keep you accountable. And now that I've done it, it holds so true. My friends and I walk together as social time (beats sitting over coffee or wine for an hour or more) to chat and catch up. And when we are walking, we don't even notice the time or the distance—we just go and go. I get more steps and accumulate more distance with friends than I ever would on my own.
Be Inefficient. We are all so busy that it makes sense to multitask, combining several errands in a single trip, ordering takeout from the computer we're already sitting in front of, or carrying that armload of clothes + toys + shoes + toilet paper upstairs in a single trip. While technology has made a lot of things easier on us, what if you deliberately tried to be inefficient—any time it involved being on your feet. On days that I know I've been less active, I choose to be inefficient as a way to get more activity in while getting my daily chores or work done. For example, I'll carry the laundry downstairs in three smaller trips instead of one oversized basket, or pick up and put away one item in the house at a time instead of filling my arms in an efficient way. Although it can be difficult to justify taking more time to do basic things when you're busy, I justify it to myself by thinking of it as multitasking: I'm getting activity in at the same time as my chores.
Be Efficient. On the flipside, are there ways you could multitask in order to get more steps in? By this I mean looking at the commonly sedentary tasks you do each day (making phone calls, sitting near your kids while they play, watching TV, reading, etc.) and deciding if there's a way you can add walking (or other movement) to that activity. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a treadmill desk at work, but I also try to get up and walk around as often as possible when I'm talking on the phone, for example. And here at SparkPeople, when we have small one-on-one discussions with co-workers or brainstorming meetings, we'll often head outside and walk while we talk if there's no need to be in a formal conference room. Perhaps you, too, can watch TV while you exercise, read (or listen to) that book on the stationary bike, or get moving with your kids when they're playing.
Step It Up Inside. Indoor walking workout DVDs are extremely popular and allow you to get moving no matter what the weather. Some titles are specific walking distances like 3 to 5 miles. We love Leslie Sansone's Walk Away the Pounds series as well as newcomer (and SparkPeople contributor) Jessica Smith's motivating walking DVDs.
As you can see, there are countless ways to reach a daily step goal. Find the tricks that work for you and keep you motivated to move and you'll hit that daily number in no time!
Do you wear an activity or step tracker? What are some of the creative ways you squeeze more steps into your day?
Nicole was named "America's Top Personal Trainer to Watch" in 2011. A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, she loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Her DVDs "Total Body Sculpting" and "28 Day Boot Camp" (a best seller) are available online and in stores nationwide. Read Nicole's full bio and blog posts.
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