In an age of digital fitness trackers, one number has emerged as the gold standard: 10,000. Upping your step count — whether you increase your daily total to 5,000 or that coveted 10,000 — is one step toward being that much healthier.
But walking around can also be downright boring. That’s why we consulted trainers to ask them: What are some fun, new ways to take more steps without pacing your house aimlessly? Below, their top 10 techniques.
1. Start Small
“Wear your step counting device for a day or two and don’t do anything special — just see where you’re starting from,” suggests Janet Hamilton, C.S.C.S. a running coach at Running Strong, and a registered clinical exercise psychologist. Do you typically hit 2,000 steps per day? “Trying to shoot for 10,000 right out of the chute is likely to come with a high risk of injury,” she says. “Instead, target some reasonable increase — perhaps 3,000.”
And don’t get discouraged if you’re a way’s away from that 10,000 number. “There’s nothing ‘magical’ about 10,000 steps per day,” says Hamilton. True progress involves starting where you are and building to where you want to be, she says. “That’s the advice I give my runners and it holds well here, too.”
2. Talk About It
On a quest to move more? “Bringing a partner along with you on the journey is a great way to increase motivation and enjoyment,” says Matt Delaney, C.S.C.S., a New York-based trainer. “Having someone to talk to and share the experience with will make it more about the process and less about the number, which is an important part of creating lasting change.” Plus, a little competition never hurt anyone, right?
3. Hit the Stairs
If you have a two-story house (or an apartment that’s on a second story or higher), you have a built-in Stairmaster, says Hamilton. “Set a timer and when it dings, do several trips up and down the stairs!” No gym required.
4. Beware of the Easy Way Out
Always pass on the path of least resistance, suggests Delaney. That means, when possible, taking the stairs instead of the elevator; deliberately parking your car at the far end of the parking lot; and walking to the coffee shop instead of driving. “We need to be more conscious of the ways we avoid activity in our daily lives, so we can recognize them and choose healthier options.”
5. Make the Grocery Store Your Gym
When we go to the store, most of us follow a set path, skipping aisles we know don’t have anything we need. It’s an efficient method (and a fool-proof way to skip the temptation to pick up those bags of chips!). But, says Hamilton, working in concentric circles from the outside toward the inside — or vice versa — is a good way to sneak in a solid walk, she says. Then, follow her advice: “Take your cart all the way back into the store instead of dropping it off at the nearest cart corral.”
6. Take a Walking Lunch
Lunch breaks are a solid chunk of time that many of us spend on our bums. But instead of sitting and eating for your whole break, why not try to take half of the time for a walk? asks Hamilton. Even 10 or 15 minutes of movement could log you 1,000 steps!
7. Break Your Email Habit
We’re all guilty of shooting off digital messages (“want to grab a coffee?” or “can you send me that memo?”) from time to time. But walking over to a coworker’s desk is an easy and manageable way to rack up your step count, says Hamilton. Do it enough and you’ll be surprised how many steps you add in every day. Plus, couldn’t we all benefit from less screen time?
8. Set a Movement Timer
If you spend all day at a desk, hitting movement goals can be difficult. That’s why Hamilton suggests setting a timer to remind you to get up every 45 minutes or so. “Not only will your back thank you, you’ll be more inclined to walk around a bit, even if it’s just to the bathroom.” Make sure to pick the bathroom that’s the farthest away from your desk and fill up your water bottle. (You’ll need that bathroom more frequently if you’re adequately hydrated!)
9. Walk Before or After Family Meals
A pre- or post-dinner ritual — strolling around the block or simply down your street a bit — is a great chance to reconnect and have meaningful conversations with those you love, says Hamilton. Make a special effort to reconnect with the world around you, too, she says. “Make it a sensory adventure – listen for birds, feel the wind on your face, look for the first hints of spring.” The more enjoyment you get out of a walk, the more likely you’ll be to want to keep up the routine.
10. Dance It Out
Who said steps only counted if you were walking or running? Hate to leave the house or apartment when it’s cold? Try Hamilton’s go-to: “Put on some tunes and dance while you fix dinner!”