Fitness Articles

9 Ways to Get 10,000 Steps a Day

Big Ways to Boost Your Daily Activity

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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
  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

  • I have a pedometer and I walk 30 minutes a day outside and I get 350 steps. Then I do
    Leslie Sansone Walk Away The Pounds & I get about another 350 steps. I do my house
    work and I don't get very many steps. That's about it for the day. So I'm anxious to try walking 5 minutes every hour. I hope I can get 10,000 steps this way. Then I still can walk in the evening & do Leslie Sansone. Thanks for Listening! I hope everyone has a
    Fabulous & Blessed Friday! - 6/17/2016 8:58:55 PM
  • I wear a Nike Fuel Band and make sure to get in my 5 mins (at least) once an hour during the day. If I don't, I get a reminder on my fuel band.
    Now with dog who needs and wants to be walked I've upped my walking and have gone from 15 - 16,000 steps/day to 19 - 21,000 steps/day and I love it! And I love her. - 5/23/2016 8:57:14 PM
  • Wear my "Sparkie" consistently and then plug steps in on the Walking4Fun site! So great to see how far I can get. (Of course starting at age 70, I'll never make it around the world but who knows??) - 5/18/2016 1:38:18 PM
  • I may be a little slow, but after finding my Fitbit, and realizing how much I walk with my doggie, I recognized that it's really very stop and go, since she has to stop and extensively sniff everything all the time!!! So a few months ago I started just walking back and forth on her retractable leash while she is otherwise engaged. It's not exactly power-walking, but at least I keep moving. I am 70 years old, so maybe don't have to worry so much about sprinting around anyways....
    - 5/18/2016 11:31:48 AM
  • I read and commented on the article in January, annnnnd I reread again today and will once again comment. NOT hitting 10,000 steps consistently is a choice I have made which has zero to do with being negative or out of shape. I have had artificial knees for the past nine years, they have a shelf life. They will have to both be least one more time. Leaving the hospital after my first replacement the doctor cautioned me to find the balance between fitness, wellness, and hastening their demise. Amen, anyone who has ever had a knee or knees replaced knows that this is NOT something they want repeated anytime soon. I would not begin to assume to tell someone how many steps they should take, this is not a one size fits all kind of deal. Instead, I would encourage everyone to get moving, build slowly, and fit your fit...your heart will thank you for it!
    - 5/18/2016 7:05:16 AM
  • I have to laugh a little - I've told a friend that I deliberately shop inefficiently at the super Walmart near me. I park on the grocery side, under a light but not very near the store. I walk from that entrance across the store to the pet section to get cat & dog food. Back across the store for milk and freggies. Oh, look, 5th on my shopping list is shampoo - back across the store to next to the pet section. I can put 3500 steps on my FitBit in and hour or so. This is really great on foul weather days, when the pups and I do the minimum (about 2 miles) outside. - 5/18/2016 2:51:31 AM
  • JMB369
    I think the important goal is a well-rounded fitness program that includes cardio, strength and flexibility. On those days when I do a yoga class or water aerobics (strength), I don't reach my step goal, and that's okay. My goal is to set aside an hour to an hour and a half every day for my physical health, just as I set aside time for meditation, preparing healthy meals, getting enough sleep. There is no question that it's a challenge to fit it all in, but I am committed to aging gracefully. - 5/17/2016 7:28:55 AM
    I wear a FitBit to track my steps in addition to a Polar Heart Rate monitor. I also have a 3 month old kitten and we "dance" together. - 4/20/2016 12:02:21 PM
  • Over Christmas my brother had a step counter and we go so excited about it we created a website dedicated to getting 10,000 steps in. http://10KStepsDa

    Right now we have a Polar M400 and a Garmin 920XT that are calculating our steps. My daily step goal is 12,000, which I usually meet or exceed. - 4/7/2016 11:37:36 AM
  • Today I walked while I cleaned off nail polish. I also tried being 'inefficient'. So far 11000 steps and the day's not over yet! - 1/26/2016 1:36:41 PM
  • Just a tip - I've noticed that my fitness tracker doesn't record my steps as accurately when I am shopping if I am pushing a cart. Try to go cart-less if possible! - 1/26/2016 11:01:47 AM
  • A fitness tracker is very motivating to me. For now I'm aiming for 5,000 steps and will work up to 10,000 (I've done it before, and I know it is possible). Things I do to get the steps in (in addition to the ones stated in the article):
    - Walk in place while watching a tv show (or even during a commercial)
    - Walk around the kitchen while I'm waiting for the water to boil while cooking
    - Put on a fun song and dance around
    - Go shopping. It doesn't feel like "exercise" but I can log a lot of steps just walking around the store
    - Walk around the house while talking on the phone (when I would normally be sitting) - 1/26/2016 12:10:53 AM
  • When I started to exercise I bought a pedometer and worked up to 10,000 steps. Broke it up during the work day figuring that smokers took breaks why not a walk break. Followed lots of these tips and that worked to get me to at least 10,000 steps/day. then I started to be sure I got 30 mins of aerobic walking (my pedometer tracked it when I walked briskly for at least 10 mins).

    this was all a great start, but after 10 months of this I had a heart attack (had already lost 50 lbs). No real risk factors either as I was close to a "normal" BMI, cholesterol OK, and no family history. What i wasn't doing was really getting a good cardio workout. As my fitness improved walking alone just wasn't doing it.

    That said, my doctor said what I was doing was just good for me. I did start cardiac rehab shortly thereafter and that was a big boon to overall fitness and jump started my weight loss again. - 1/21/2016 7:23:52 AM
  • I have to agree with DV--not everyone can do 10k steps per day. An actual workout (not just casual walking) is more crucial for actual cardiovascular health.

    others- with all due respect, it's not whining to say there are more important things than the number of steps per day. While working I took a ten minute break every hour to walk throughout my work day. Add a 20 minute walk during my actual workout and I still rarely broke 7,000 steps per day. Why is that? No idea. Maybe because walking that many miles per day isn't important to me. Take a serious look at some of these suggestions. Break the walking into three workouts of 3 miles, 2 miles, etc.? How much time do you honestly think a working parent has to devote to just walking?

    Moving is important, not the numbers. yes, I am disabled. There are days when walking isn't a possibility for me and I no longer work because of it. But I still try to move. I refuse to get hung up on the number 10,000, however. I think this kind of mindset tends to focus things in the wrong direction. - 1/21/2016 1:14:28 AM
  • Love my fit bit. most weeks I get at least 10,000 steps in on 5 days.

    The key here is to do what you can and strive to do better every week.

    I have had 3 knee surgery's and it takes time to build up strength and stamina.

    You just do the best you can everyday- and know that the best each day is different. - 1/20/2016 9:23:39 PM

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