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We are all encouraged to try and do 10,000 steps a day to make sure we get some exercise in our busy schedules which leads towards a more healthy lifestyle. But why 10,000? And how can we hit 10,000 steps when we are so busy. In this blog post I look at some of the science behind the 10,000 steps goal and give some hints and tips to achieve this every day.
For me, exercise is a huge part of managing my chronic pain and wellbeing, and increasing my number of daily steps is a simply way to help. I’ve talked about exercise and chronic pain in some of my previous blog posts:
Why 10,000 steps?
There are so many opinions on the internet as to what exercise is good for you and how much we should be doing. Obviously everyone is different in terms of their ability, and another key factor is what goals people have – get fit, lose weight, recovery from an injury etc.
Walking has so many health benefits:
- It burns calories and helps us lose weight
- It is good for our mental health and wellbeing
- It is a simple, good stress relief
- It can improve your mood
- It can improve our overall health
According to The Walking Website, 10,000 steps is just a goal to encourage people to move more and stay motivated. For some people, this figure may sound a huge amount, and for some it may already be their daily average. It all depends on what you do now and what you are aiming to do.
SOME FACTS ABOUT 10,000 STEPS
- For me, 10,000 steps is roughly 4 miles (6.4km) – this is based on stride length so will vary for everyone.
- Walking 10,000 steps a day can burn 1000-3000 extra calories each week (depending on your pace, weight, height, age etc.
- 10,000 steps a day isn’t just your daily exercise, it includes all your steps!
Is 10,000 steps achievable?
Whether you aim to achieve 10,000 steps a day or increase your daily amount by say 3000 steps, it takes very little effort. It’s just about moving more and knowing some hints and tips of how to build more steps in to your day (I’ve given some examples further below).
You need to pick a daily steps goal for you that is both achievable and challenging. If it’s not achievable, you won’t do it; and if it’s not challenging, it won’t motivate you to carry on.
Track your steps
Using a pedometer or fitness tracker is a simple way of monitoring your steps and keeping motivated to achieve your personal goals. It can also be a lot of fun if you link up with friends or set some challenges to achieve together.
There are loads of different products available. Some you can wear on your wrist, and some you can clip on to your trousers or simply pop in a pocket or bag. I’ve recently used 3 different trackers to get me motivated to walk more steps:
1 Apple Watch: I didn’t buy this to track my steps; I love my gadgets so I bought myself one 3 years ago.
2 3DTriSport Pedometer: This is a lot simpler than a wearable like an Apple Watch. It tracks steps and a few other stats but you can’t link it to an app to keep records and see how far you’ve come. It is extremely accurate though, which impressed me.
3. FitBit Versa: If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have seen that I recently swapped to one of these. So far I absolutely love it! It is really motivating me to move more and the challenges you can do are so much fun.
Do your research and see what type of tracker would suit you best.
Find out your current average daily steps
Before you begin to aim towards doing 10,000 steps, it is a good idea to know what your daily steps are now. This will help understand where you’re at; how you need to work towards doing 10,000 steps a day; and how achievable it is for you. If you currently do 3000 steps a day, then doing 10,000 steps will seem daunting and unachievable, which is likely to make you feel demotivated and give up at the first hurdle – before you’ve even get walking.
Wear your tracker for a week and work out your average daily steps. Some trackers tell you this (like the FitBit Versa) or simply add up the steps for each day and divide by 7 to workout your daily average. This gives you a starting point and anything you do above this is an achievement. Little achievements like this when doing exercise are crucial to keep you motivated and feel good about yourself.
Build your steps up slowly
How many steps you do each day after working out your daily average is personal to you and your goal. You may not want to aim to do 10,000 steps, 7000 steps may be a more realistic goal. Whatever your goal is, it is best to build your steps up slowly.
If you currently do 3000 steps a day, and your goal is 7000 steps a day, then aim to do an extra 500-1000 steps each day, or even each day for a week or so, until you hit your goal. This is especially important if you have any health conditions. It you jump to doing 8000 steps straight away and don’t meet your target, you will feel de-motivated, like you’ve failed, and are more likely to give up.
Simple ways to do more steps
- Walk instead of driving or getting the bus
- Get up half an hour early and go for a walk before work (this can have a real positive effect on your mindset for the rest of the day)
- Walk down every aisle in the supermarket
- Walk the long way round
- Walk the dog an extra 5 minutes (doing this every day means an extra 35 minute of walking each week)
- Go for a walk with some music, a podcast, or an audio book
- Walk around the house or up and down the stairs during TV adverts
- Do steps on the spot when watching TV
- Use a stepper – different types are available
- Walk around when on the phone
- Walk around when brushing your teeth (it’s surprising how many steps you can do in two minutes, twice a day)
- Go for a walk on your lunch break
- Walk to the furthest toilet or printer in your office
- Go and speak to someone instead of picking up the phone or sending an email
- Walk around when on the phone or a teleconference
- Park your car further away from the office door
What not to do
Try not to leave your daily steps until the end of the day. Spread them out throughout the day as best you can. Maybe aim to do so many in an hour or so many by lunchtime. I can’t tell you what these figures should be because it all depends on your health, if you work and what your working hours are.
Don’t aim to do 70,000 steps over a week instead of 10,000 steps a day. I tried this in January – I wrote about it in my blog post My 2018 goals – and it didn’t work. In theory I thought it would take the pressure off days when I was struggling with my pain, but I left all my steps to the last few days of the week and it had the opposite effect and added far too much pressure instead.
Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t hit your steps every day. We all have good and bad days. If you aim to hit your goal 80-90% of the time then this is good enough.
Let me know in the comments below if you decide to up your steps and how you get on, and what other tips you have for hitting your daily steps goal.