Part of reaching your health and fitness goals is literally putting one foot in front of the other… again and again and again.
We’ve all seen the ominous headlines blaring that sitting will kill you and how sitting is the new smoking. But before you throw out every chair in your house (and office), it’s important to remember that it’s more about the lack of movement than the act of putting your butt in a chair that’s not good for your body.
That said, sitting for extended periods of time isn’t great even for people who exercise on the regular: According to 2015 research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, constant sitting — during your commute, at your desk, or on the couch— may blunt the positive effects of your workouts.
That’s partially because long bouts of inactivity inhibit the flow of blood and nutrients to your muscles between exercise sessions, explains Jason Raynor, C.S.C.S., a Nike Master Trainer with the Spa at JW Marriott Chicago. Performing regular activity like walking throughout the day, however, can help your muscles recover and reduce exercise-induced inflammation, Raynor says.
What’s more, outside of your workout, your non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) — the energy you burn doing things like walking from point A to point B — is the biggest source of your daily caloric burn, says Kimberly Mills, owner of FitPossibilities Personal Training and Nutrition Coaching in Missouri. And remember: Hitting 10,000 steps a day is not a substitute for exercise — pair your workouts with regular movement throughout the day.
Do You Really Need to Take 10,000 Steps a Day?
“There’s nothing magical about the 10,000 number,” Dr. Campbell says. “The number came from pedometers sold in Japan in the 1960s. They were marketed under the name ‘manpo-kei,’ which translates to ‘10,000 steps meter.’ The 10,000 step count then just kind of caught on since then.”
That said, performing regular movement — taking more steps than you did last week or last month — is the goal.
Related: How Many Steps Do You Walk Per Mile?
Research published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity suggests that most healthy adults rack up between 4,000 and 18,000 steps per day, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) doesn’t even bother making a step recommendation. Instead, it recommends that adults do strength training and 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week, which is roughly 8,000 steps a day, according to Campbell.
14 Easy Ways to Get You to 10,000 Steps
1. Get a dog
Nothing will get you out of the house faster than a puppy that needs to do some business. Not sure if you can commit? Check your local animal shelter or pet rescue sites for foster home programs; you’ll be doing your body and a homeless pooch a favor.
2. Take the stairs
At work, at the mall, at the train station, anywhere. If you wear a fitness tracker, you’ll score both steps and flights.
3. Take a moving break
During your lunch break, go on a 15-minute walk around the block. Not only will you get your steps in, but you may feel more focused at work. And remember to get up frequently during the day, not just at lunch.
4. Get a treadmill desk
Check with your company to see if they provide treadmill desks (yes, it’s a thing) for employees. Walking while you’re typing takes some getting used to, but it’s worth it.
5. Park far away
Every couple of hundred steps walking to or from your car adds up quickly. Plus, if you park at the back of the parking lot, you’ll help save your car from dings and dents.
6. Take the long way
When you’re at work and need to go to the restroom, skip the closest one and take a detour. Hit the stairs and use one on a different floor, or just take the longest route there. The same goes for doing errands (on foot) or strolling to a friend’s house.
7. Take a post-meal walk
Put your shoes on after you put down your fork. Taking a 15-minute walk after dinner can help you digest your meal faster, too.
8. Get off the bus or train one (or two) stops early
Two birds, one stone: You’ll help reduce carbon emissions and do your body good at the same time.
9. Play with your kids
Hide and seek can run up 10,000 steps alone!
10. Walk and talk
Take your business calls on the go, or skip the conference room and have walking meetings with your colleagues.
11. Don’t fast forward your DVR
The next time you binge-watch “The Walking Dead,” don’t fast forward through the commercials. Stand up and march in place or pick stuff up around the house until the zombies get walking again.
12. Drink up
You need lots of water anyway, and all of those trips to the water cooler at work—and the restroom—will make a big dent in your day’s step total.
13. Go on a walking date
It’s a kind of a throwback, but there’s something charming about taking a stroll, especially a sunset one, with your S.O. (If it’s a first-date-gone-wrong, then you can keep walking—away.)
14. Take extra trips
When unloading grocery bags from the car or carrying laundry to the bedroom, it’s tempting to try to take as few trips as possible. Instead, try taking one more trip than you absolutely have to.
With all the technology and machinery available to move us around with the least amount of effort, it’s easy to get in the “why walk?” mindset. We’re not saying you need to pull a Forrest Gump and traverse the U.S. on foot, but you’ll be surprised at how fast you’ll hit your daily goal (whatever it is) when you use your feet for what they were meant to do.