After much research, I have solved the mystery surrounding why I am out of shape. I don’t move enough. Shocking, isn’t it? Getting to this simple conclusion took a little help from a basic workout tool, and the recognition of my lazy habits. My new goal is to start walking 10,000 steps a day, and here’s how I plan to get there.
Armed with a new pedometer, I began taking little steps each day to increase my physical activity. Sure, I hit the gym a few days a week, but I’m only there an hour. The other 23 hours were filled with inactivity. The last thing I wanted to do was implement a formal walking program – sorry, but it’s boring to me. The following moves helped me reach my goal to walk 10,000 steps a day consistently, with minimal interference with my regular routine.
1. Get a pedometer. Unless you are really good at counting, you will probably want to pick up a quality pedometer to measure your steps. Some pedometers also monitor distances, and even heart rate, calories burned, etc. For this exercise I am most concerned with steps, so any decent pedometer will do. And since I’m a goal-oriented person, I love the challenge of trying to sneak in a few more steps than the day before.
2. If you have a desk job, stand up and walk every hour. I spend a lot of time in front of a computer – somewhere in the neighborhood of 14 hours a day. That’s rough on the eyeballs, and even rougher on my gut. Instead of sitting for three hour marathons writing an article, I have started forcing myself to get up and walk for a few minutes. Sometimes I just wander around the office, and when the weather is nice, I stroll outside to my truck and back. On the occasion someone stops to ask what I am doing, I simply tell them I am taking a “non-smoke” break.
3. Park farther away from entrances. We’ve heard this one over and over again, but according to my handy pedometer it really does work. I began parking at the far corner of parking lots and counting the number of steps to where I would normally park (and then double that number for the return trip). It wasn’t uncommon to earn an extra 200 steps from that move alone.
4. Put down the phone, cancel that email, and walk. Throughout the day I often call or email coworkers, even if they sit just a few steps away. Of course, it’s better to put some things in writing, but many things can be handled by a quick conversation.
5. Walk or jog in place during your favorite television show. In the evenings, after dinner and when I generally start to feel like a sloth, it’s hard not to just kick back and watch a couple hours of television, or surf the web. I enjoy only a couple television shows, but when they are on, I want to watch them because they represent my three or four hours during the week of mindless entertainment. So, I started standing during the program and walking in place, pacing the living room, and doing jumping jacks. If this disrupts your viewing pleasure, only do it during commercial breaks. Anything is better than just sitting there doing nothing for hours on end.
6. Take the stairs. Elevators and escalators were fun when we were kids, but taking the stairs adds steps to your daily total, and it is a great calorie burner.
7. Pacing. Spend a lot of your day standing around waiting? For the bus, the subway, a ride home, on hold on the phone? Instead of sitting or simply standing still, try pacing back and forth. This single act could add a few hundred steps to your day.
8. Take the dog for a walk. You and man’s best friend will benefit from a quick stroll around the block. This is something I need to do more often. Our dog loves to be walked, but when it’s cold and getting dark at the end of a long day, it sure is hard to go for the leash and head outside.
9. Hit the mall. Speaking of cold weather, did you know most malls open an hour or so early for walkers? And even if the stores are open, you can leave your cash and credit cards at home and simply stroll around the mall in a temperature-controlled, relatively safe environment. As long as you plan your route away from the food court, you’ll be fine.
After I bought my pedometer, I went about my normal routine for a couple days to get a baseline for my daily steps. Without additional exercise or behavior modifications I was walking around 3,300 steps a day. That’s a fairly low number considering 10,000 steps is roughly the equivalent of 30 minutes of moderate exercise.
On days I hit the gym that number increased to 6,000 steps thanks to a little time in the cardio area – still some 4,000 steps short of my goal. It was obvious I couldn’t make up all those steps from the gym alone, so I began implementing the steps above. Since the first of the year, simply by incorporating these simple tweaks, I’m averaging about 10,300 steps. I’d like to improve to 15,000 or so by the end of January. In that same time I’ve managed to drop seven pounds without much change to my diet (although admittedly, I am trying to eat less these days).
What other tips can you share to help walkers get a few extra steps each day?