Step goals are a great way to track activity and encourage you to be more active throughout the day. There are several health benefits associated with increasing your daily steps. Benefits of walking include; a decreased risk of weight gain and obesity, lower incidences of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease, improved muscle and bone strength, improved mood and memory, and an increase in balance and coordination.
How Many Steps Should you be Taking?
Despite what a lot of people think, there is no magic number for how many steps you should get in a day. Research shows that the more light activity you can get in a day, the better. The more daily steps you can get, the higher the health benefits will be.
You may have heard that you should be aiming to get between 10 000 – 15 000 steps per day. This is a common goal because it tends to be challenging but achievable for most lifestyles. However, this number is not written in stone. For some people, a 10 000-step goal may not be realistic and may lead to discouragement. Alternatively, some people may easily reach this number and should be reaching for more. Your daily step count should be influenced by the type of job you have and your daily activities.
Step goals should be unique and set based on your lifestyle. To set your step goal, start by tracking your steps for a week or two without changing any of your activity habits to figure out what your standard is. Once you have established your baseline step number, make your goal a couple of thousand steps higher to encourage you to find ways to increase your activity. This way, your goal will push you outside of your average activity level without being too overwhelming or challenging to achieve.
Strategies to Increase your Steps
Increasing your daily steps is easier than you think. Finding creative ways to add a few extra steps here and there will add up! Take some time to think about your daily routine and figure out what is holding you back from walking and what small changes you can make to add more steps.
Increasing Your Steps at the Office:
- Park further away, get off the bus one stop early or have the taxi to drop you off one block from the office
- Walk to your co-worker instead of emailing them when you need to talk to them
- Walk while you eat lunch
- Incorporate 10 min walking breaks into your day to clear your head or to brainstorm new ideas
- Take the stairs
- Find ways to multitask while walking – send emails, read an article, etc. while you walk
- Wear work clothes that you feel comfortable walking in
- Drink lots of water – the extra steps to the water cooler and the restroom will add up
- Use the restroom that is one floor up or down from you instead of the one right down the hall
Increasing Your Steps on the Weekend:
- Find activities that involve walking. Go for a hike, tour a museum, go shopping (not online), or play a recreational sport with friends or family
- Find restaurants, coffee shops, and bars within walking distance of your house
- Use walking as your time to relax and decompress
- Find a friend to walk with; this will help keep both of you accountable for your steps
- Instead of meeting friends for coffee or drinks to catch up, walk while you talk
- Go for a quick walk around the block while you are at your kid’s sports practice
- Walk to the store when possible, or park in a central location between multiple stores and walk
Increasing Your Steps at Home:
- Reframe everyday household chores like cutting the grass or sweeping the kitchen floor as a way to get more steps
- Spend more time outside; play with the kids, take the dog for a longer walk, spend time cleaning up the yard
- Pace around the room while you talk on the phone
- Instead of fast-forwarding through commercial breaks, force yourself to stand up and walk around the house until the show is back on
Other Healthy Habits to Increase Exercise
While keeping track of your steps is an excellent way to encourage light activity throughout the day, it is not the only way to improve your activity level. There are several activities that you can do that increase your heart rate and improve your health, but that contribute very little to your overall steps. These include things like lifting weights, cycling, swimming, and yoga. Understanding how these types of activities fit into your lifestyle and how they might impact your step goal is essential in achieving an overall healthy lifestyle.