“Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.” – Henry David Thoreau
In case you haven’t heard, we’re supposed to be walking approximately 10,000 steps a day. That’s right, 10,000 steps. In one day. That doesn’t sound so awful — at first — until you consider that most adults walk fewer than 5,000 steps a day. (nytimes.com) That fact seemed pretty unbelievable to me until I installed a pedometer app on my phone and discovered I was walking around 2,000 steps OR LESS/day!
Less than 2,000? How can that be? I don’t think of myself as a sedentary person, yet my pedometer was saying otherwise. And despite my unfounded belief that those less-than-2,000-days must somehow be an anomaly, weeks went by, and nothing about my step count changed. Perhaps I thought simply tracking them would cause my steps to increase? News flash: It doesn’t.
Here’s why you want to increase your steps: According to Readers Digest, walking 10,000 steps a day improves heart health, strengthens your lungs, improves concentration, improves bone density and builds muscle, boosts energy, and improves your overall mood. The article also points out that aiming to walk 10,000 steps a day (or any number that presents a challenge), is a great way to motivate yourself to move more and to interrupt the time you spend sitting. Notice the word aiming. So even if you don’t hit 10,000, simply by aiming for it, you’re still getting benefits.
Not one to shy away from a challenge, I refused to believe I couldn’t incorporate enough additional steps into my day to put me closer to 10,000. Problem is, I didn’t want to take long, intentional nature walks or pound away on a treadmill in order to do it. For one thing, I knew I wouldn’t stick with steps if it involved the outdoors. Too hot? Not walking. Too cold? Not walking. Raining, sleeting, snowing, or the wind blowing too hard? Not walking. And the idea of walking 30 minutes or more on a treadmill — not happening. Plus, I didn’t want to simply increase my steps to prove I could do it, I wanted to make it a part of my routine. I knew it would take some creative stepping, and with that in mind, I became a woman with a mission.
The real epiphany for me was realizing I didn’t have to take a long walk to get in my steps, rather I could add steps throughout my normal day to increase my total. It sort of made my head hurt to think I needed to carve out yet more time exclusively for walking to try and improve my step count. But I really didn’t. It doesn’t matter HOW you get them, it just matters that you get them.
It also doesn’t really matter if you hit 10,000 — so no beating yourself up if you don’t. The intention is to become more active overall, with 10,000 steps the goal. Here’s the great part: other than a pair of supportive shoes, you don’t need any special equipment to increase your steps!
Here’s what I did to increase my step count:
Make It a Contest: My husband and I each keep track of our steps and then compare totals at the end of the day. There’s no prize for our efforts, but I find myself making extra laps if I think there’s a chance he might win — he usually doesn’t. You can do this remotely with co-workers, friends, and other relatives — just have everyone screenshot their total and share.
Walk when I’m on the phone: Unless I need to reference my computer while I’m talking, I walk the entire time I talk on the telephone and pick up hundreds of steps!
Making laps in the house: I frequently get up from my computer and make a couple of laps through the kitchen, into the bedroom, up the stairs, through the upstairs bedrooms, and back down again. Doing this numerous times adds up to LOTS of steps!
Make several trips: Instead of loading up as many things as I can to take from the car to the house or from one room to the other in one trip, I walk back and forth several times to add more steps.
Take a full lap at the store: I may only need one or two things at the grocery, but I walk all the way around and up and down a few aisles, just to work in a few more steps. One caveat: be careful that the extra steps don’t lead to extra/unwanted items!
Walk the perimeter of the mall: Why wouldn’t I turn a favorite pastime (shopping) into a fitness activity? Our mall isn’t that large, but one full lap adds 2,000 steps to your total! Again, speed doesn’t matter — meaning you can take your time to people watch and check out storefronts. Caveat: make sure you’re wearing appropriate footwear! I took off mall walking in my cute boots and realized halfway through the lap that this wasn’t the best choice.
Park farther away from the store: Unless it’s pouring down rain and/or I’m wearing inappropriate shoes, I now park in the farthest space from stores and pick up a ridiculous amount of steps. EX: Walking from my vehicle to Target, making a perimeter lap of the store, back to my vehicle, and then putting my cart in the rack gave me an extra 1100 steps! BONUS: No pressure to find a spot close to the door, and you don’t have to worry about other cars dinging your vehicle, because there probably won’t be any near you.
Remember, we all have deep fundamental instincts to avoid unnecessary activity, so we need those nudges [like trying to get in 10,000 steps] to get started. That’s according to Daniel Lieberman, Harvard Peleoanthropolotist. (Insider.com) That means changing our somewhat sedentary habits won’t happen overnight. It will, however, happen one step at a time.
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