Fitness Articles

9 Ways to Get 10,000 Steps a Day

Big Ways to Boost Your Daily Activity

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
  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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!
  4. 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.
  5. 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!)

  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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?
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About The Author

Nicole Nichols Nicole Nichols
A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, Nicole loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Nicole was formerly SparkPeople's fitness expert and editor-in-chief, known on the site as "Coach Nicole." Make sure to explore more of her articles and blog posts.

Member Comments

  • My daughter and I love this article. We get between 10K and 15K steps in everyday. I have a fitbit flex and we have the S health on our phones. It has become out alone time together. - 10/22/2015 2:45:02 AM
  • I park a ten minute walk away from work, rain or shine. Gives me at least 3K steps for the return trip - 9/26/2015 11:46:31 PM
    Good ideas, but 10,000 steps really holds no magic, be serious. If I quit my job, and had nothing else to do, maybe then it would be something easy to do. - 9/1/2015 8:23:23 AM
  • I try but it rarely happens. Some of these are very good ideas. Being a newbie at movement it has been very challenging. - 8/31/2015 1:10:34 PM
    it's hard to do a power walk when using a walker now but dividing up the walks into 3 a day is a good idea - 6/14/2015 11:57:36 AM
    I've found that working 10,000 steps a day only helps me maintain my current weight. If I want to lose weight, I have to up my daily step count to at least 15,000. - 6/10/2015 1:45:40 AM
  • I have a fitbit zip I wear every day. I try to get in 13k a day. If I'm low after dinner I'll drag my husband on a quick walk to get the remaining steps in. At work, I have a program that pops up on my computer and tells me I need to take a break. It locks my screen and has me do a few exercises for the amount of time I set (5 min) and then releases the screen when the 5 min are up. (If I'm busy, I can skip the break so its not permanently locked.) I setup how often it reminds me and how long I want for a break. (Every hour.) It counts my lunch as a natural break when I lock my computer screen. It is pretty cool. It is called Workrave for anyone who is interested. I tend to get super focused at work and forget to get up and walk around. So this program works great. - 6/8/2015 11:47:30 AM
  • I started wearing a pedometer in March 2012 about 6 months into my getting healthy and fit life. I was working full time and did about 10 mins before I left for work; walking all the way around the building when I got to work and took at least one 10 mins walk in the morning and and afternoon then one longer one at lunch. Aimed to get at least 30 mins of aerobic walking. Reached my 10,000 steps every day.
    As I got fitter I upped my exercise and even though I was working out at the gym, still found time for those 10 min walks. Now I wear the Nike Fuel band and aim to get at least 7 hours "won" which means I moved for 5 minutes in an hour. IN addition to my workouts, I turn up the hip hop music and dance around the house every hour. Still like my 10 -15 post lunch walk. Now I typically get between 15 - 18,000 steps each day. - 4/19/2015 10:52:47 AM
  • It is rare that don't travel at least 12 K steps a day, many times a week it is 15-18 K and during the summer months as much as 22 K during fencing or haying. I think so many people have sedentary jobs now that it is making it hard to get even 5 K steps a day, the way of life is more and more desk jobs and less and less active jobs. - 4/19/2015 2:01:02 AM
    I use my smart phone to track my steps, its always on me. I check it at breaks and during lunch. If I'm running short of steps, then I take the longer route to meetings, the restroom and even walk to my co-workers desk instead of using the phone or email. - 4/4/2015 10:24:17 PM
  • I never considered myself and early riser, but since I got my Spark Activity Tracker, I'm determined to keep my 10K-a-Day streak going. I've been getting up an hour earlier (6:30 am), dressing and walking for 45 minutes, getting home and then starting my regular daily routine when my "normal" wake up time (7:30 am) rolls around. It's so nice to get 5000 steps in before I launch into the responsibilities of the day. Then I fit in another walk or two, sometimes with my DH at night after dinner, to get the full 10,000. - 3/26/2015 10:13:07 AM
  • I usually have a pedomiter on but havent worn it today so instead I will set my alarm at my desk for every 1 hr and get up and walk around or do lunges or anything for about 5 min the end of the work day I have moved every hour and dont feel tired .....I sit all day at the desk so seditary and work out 30 min every other day ....but now I am trying to do something on my days off ... - 2/23/2015 8:10:13 AM
  • I wear a pedometer and find that I go to great lengths to get in all my steps each day. I take the stairs when possible and when I'm waiting for my bus at the end of the day I walk briskly around the block for about 20 minutes which really helps me get my 10,000 in each day. I also make extra trips up and down my stairs at home and park far away from the store to get in more steps. Where there's a will there's a way! - 2/2/2015 5:41:44 PM
  • I love, love, love Jessica Smith! I use her walking videoes as well as Leslie Samsone's daily! Here lately I've had no problem meeting my 10,000 steps and then some! Thanks for these tips though! - 1/27/2015 4:20:15 PM
  • My husband and I are both competitive people, we use the daily challenge on fit bit to get our steps every day. We will go to whatever length we have to to beat each other. I usually turn on music and dance around during my spare time. I can get my 10000 steps in just over 45 minutes, anything above that is just gravy for the win. - 1/26/2015 1:37:53 PM

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