Staying fit and losing weight in the midst of a busy life can seem like a daunting task. Who has the time to spend driving to and from the gym when there’s work, dinner, kids, chores, and social obligations to worry about? We get it – there will always be days when other things have to come before getting in your 30-minute workout. Luckily, there is an exercise you can do in all the “in-between” moments: walking.
Fact: walking 10,000 steps in a day equals burning about 500 calories1. Add that up, and comes out to about a pound of weight loss per week! The average sedentary person already gets in around 2,000 steps per day, which is approximately a mile and takes you about 20 minutes. Do the math and that means to reach the 10,000-step goal you’ll have to walk for right at five miles or an hour. While adding 8,000 steps might seem intimidating, we’ve got good news: a whole cheat-sheet list of easy ways to sneak in more steps every day!
1. Buy a pedometer. FitBits or similar devices are essential. They make it easy to know how many steps you’ve taken (sometimes you’ll be surprised at how far you’ve already gone in a day!) and remind you when you need to step up your game.
2. Keep a journal. In addition to tracking your steps each day, writing down your totals is a great way to track your progress. This is especially helpful if you have to work up to 10,000 steps; seeing steady improvement helps you keep a right perspective.
3. Add steps every day. If you find 10,000 steps a difficult goal to achieve each day, don’t worry about it. Think in smaller chunks. If you can manage 5,000 no problem, increase your amount by 300 steps every day until you hit 10,000. Or consider making weekly goals – increasing your total steps by 1,000 each week consecutively for 5 weeks.
4. Chose to walk more. Honestly, it all starts with a choice. Consciously choose to walk more. Throughout the day, think about ways you can sneak a few more steps in here or there. Make it goal #1 for a while will help you build habits that will ultimately become second nature to you.
5. Set reminders. Set mini-goals through the day – 4,000 steps by lunch, 4,000 steps by dinner, 2,000 steps after dinner. At each meal, evaluate your progress and come up with ways to meet your goal if you’re falling short. Have an alarm go off on your phone every two or three hours reminding you to take a ten-minute break from work to walk around the house or office.
6. Find a walking buddy. Everything’s better with a friend. Whether it’s your dog, your spouse, your best friend, or your neighbor, find a buddy to go on a walk with a few days a week. Not only will your health benefit, but as a bonus, you’ll have stronger relationships, too!
7. Park inconveniently. It’s tempting to want to battle for the front-row parking spot, but by taking a spot in a far-away corner and walking you’ll walk more and be less likely to fall prey to parking lot road rage (especially around the holidays!). When you’re tempted to use the drive-thru, choose to walk inside the store.
8. Don’t forget the easy things. It’s the little choices that can start to add up and make a big difference. Take the stairs instead of using the elevator; get off the bus one stop early and walk home. Use your feet to get you to the store instead of driving every time. Walk your child to school or get the whole family on an after-dinner walk.
9. Walk while you wait. Unfortunately, we all spend more time than we’d like waiting. Make your waiting more productive by getting your steps in. Brushing your teeth, waiting at the doctor’s office, even standing in line are all great examples of places to walk (even in place) while you wait.
10. Be inefficient at work. For example, walk to your coworkers office to deliver a message instead of sending an email. Choose to use the bathroom on the floor above (or below) yours. Maybe even schedule a walking meeting outside instead of using the board room.
11. Take an extra lap. Take simple activities that require walking and extend them. When you go get the mail, take an extra lap around your house or the block. At the grocery store, do a complete lap around the outside perimeter before you start doing your shopping.
12. Multitask while you walk. Take activities that usually leave you chair-bound and turn them into exercise. For example, walk around the room while you talk on the phone. While you’re watching TV, get up and walk around the house during commercial breaks. Instead of sitting waiting for your child’s soccer practice to be over, take advantage of the area and walk around the track.
13. Up the intensity. Get the most out of your steps by working harder for them. Up your pace to get your heart rate going faster, and don’t shy away from aggressively tackling those stairs. Go the long way around so you have to walk up a hill.
Walking as a way of exercise is wonderful. You should absolutely still prioritize getting to the gym for some weight lifting or taking 30 minutes to do some high intensity interval training, but walking in the meantime is an excellent way to get in your exercise with minimal effort.