Ten thousand steps: That’s the number health and fitness experts agree you should take each day to keep your heart healthy and control your weight. It sounds daunting—until you clip on a pedometer and find out that many of the things you do every day add up to several thousand steps.
Wearing a pedometer—a pager-sized device that senses your body’s movement and measures how many steps you take—can encourage you to use the stairs instead of the escalator, or walk instead of drive. “Once you see the numbers on the pedometer go up, you’ll get creative about getting more steps into your day,” says Mark Fenton, host of the PBS series America’s Walking and coauthor of Pedometer Walking: Stepping Your Way to Health, Weight Loss, and Fitness (Lyons Press, 2006). “It’s a great motivator because the reward is instant.”
First, use a model that delivers an accurate step count. (You don’t need one that tracks distance or calories.) Put it on as soon as you get out of bed, and go about your normal routine, keeping it on until you get into bed that night. Record the total number of steps for the day, then reset it to zero. At the end of the first week, add up your daily counts and divide by seven for your average daily steps. To determine your daily target for the following week, multiply that number by 1.2. The goal is to increase your number of steps by 20 percent each week for six to ten weeks until you reach 10,000.
“A reasonably active person takes between 5,000 and 6,000 steps a day, but if your count is only 3,000, that’s OK,” Fenton says. “Even with a low number, you can make quantum increases easily.” Here are a few tips from Fenton’s book to get you started:
• Run more errands on foot: Two ten-minute errands add 2,400 steps.
• Dust off the treadmill and watch TV while you walk. One episode of Grey’s Anatomy can log 7,000 steps.
• Skip e-mail occasionally and hand-deliver messages to coworkers. You can tally 600 extra steps walking to a neighbor’s house or a colleague’s office down the hall.
• Shop at the store instead of online. Shopping for 30 minutes may add 3,000 steps. Take a ten-minute lap around the mall and you’ll up your steps by 1,200.
Walking image via Shutterstock