Walking is more than a means of getting from point A to point Z (and all the points in between). In addition to its functional necessity, putting one foot in front of the other is also a highly effective and simple way to boost overall health and wellness. Increasing your step count on a consistent basis can help to burn calories, improve heart health, ease joint pain, reduce blood sugar levels, elevate mood, increase muscle tone and alleviate depression, among many other life-enriching benefits.|
But between rigorous work schedules, family obligations and a myriad of daily tasks, the biggest challenge might not be the actual physical demand of walking the walk, but finding the time to squeeze in the extra steps. Not all of us have the luxury of a spare hour—or even half an hour—to lace up and hit the pavement. The good news: Walking for 15 minutes, four times a day is just as advantageous as hoofing it for one full hour, though the benefits of the two are slightly different. Just as several small, nutritious snacks fuel your body throughout the day, short bouts of exercise can provide sustained cardiovascular benefits.
We’ve all heard that age-old benchmark of 10,000 steps per day, but experts are beginning to debunk that as a default target, as each person has unique challenges and abilities. Whether your daily goal is half that or twice as much, increasing your physical activity should always be the primary goal, as it is an important piece of the health, wellness and weight-loss puzzle. And keep in mind that we all burn calories through non-exercise activity, also known as non-exercise activity thermogenesis (N.E.A.T.).
No matter your current schedule or responsibilities, boosting your daily step count isn’t as challenging as you might think. Get started with some easy, incremental ways to elevate your walking game.
Just 15 minutes of brisk walking can burn 100 calories (for a 150-pound person). By using some of these sneaky-smart strategies to squeeze in some extra movement throughout the day, you can boost your weight-loss efforts, improve your cardiovascular health and elevate your mood and mental well-being.
- Have face-to-face conversations. Instead of hopping on the phone or shooting an email to a co-worker, get up and walk down the hall or up the stairs for an in-person exchange. Not only will you boost your step count, but you’ll also foster stronger communication with colleagues.
- Avoid the elevator. It may save time, but by hopping in an elevator, you're missing out on an opportunity to burn more calories. When given the option, always choose the stairs over elevators and escalators.
- Seek out other walkers. When you socialize with other steppers—whether they’re co-workers, next-door neighbors or family members—it will be much easier to squeeze in impromptu walks. Instead of hitting happy hour, see if they're interested in catching up on life while walking through the park by your house.
- Walk a dog. If you happen to own one, this can easily become part of your daily routine, and will benefit both you and your pooch. If you’re dogless, offer to walk a neighbor’s, family member’s or friend’s dog. Many animal shelters also allow volunteers to come in and walk their four-legged residents. Having a purpose and function for walking can serve as an added motivation boost.
- Skip the grocery pickup or delivery. Navigating the aisles on foot will rack up extra steps, while also letting you evaluate nutrition labels up close.
- Try a treadmill desk. Instead of sitting in a chair all day, ask your boss about possibly investing in a treadmill desk. Hopping on even for a small portion of the day will allow you to boost your health and fitness while catching up on emails.
- Take public transport. Intentionally get off one stop early (or get on one stop late) and walk the remainder of the way.
- Treat walking like a stress release. When you feel anxious, overwhelmed or just out of sorts, walk your way back to a healthy state of mind instead of turning to unhealthy releases like snacking, smoking or drinking.
- Consider un-delegating some tasks. If you currently pay someone to deliver your groceries, clean your house, tend to your lawn or walk your dog, consider taking back some of those tasks. Not only will you get in more daily activity, you’ll also save some money.
- March in place while watching TV. Turn your next Netflix binge into a mini calorie-burning session.
- Keep comfortable shoes in reach. You’ll be much more likely to take impromptu walks if you have appropriate footwear on hand. Stash a pair in your car, office or anywhere you spend a large amount of time.
- Walk while you wait. Instead of sitting in doctors’ waiting rooms or in your car during a kid’s soccer practice, use that time to grab a quick stroll.
- Park far away from entrances. It’s a common tip for a reason—it works! Over the course of a week, all of those treks through parking lots really do add up.
- Suggest walking meetings. Instead of sitting around conference room tables, suggest to your colleagues that you take a walk around the building or head outside for a mobile meeting.
- Stretch out your tasks. Use the "one at a time" rule when carrying grocery bags in from the car, retrieving mail and packages, bringing items up and down the stairs and other tasks that are usually combined.