When you’re healthy and fit, you don’t realize how essential it is to be able to move around on foot. Walking is probably just a boring activity you mindlessly do.
It’s not until you become ill or injured that you discover that being able to walk places is key to living a ‘normal life’, even in our sedentary society. Pain, dizzy spells, shaky legs and extreme fatigue can make the simplest moves difficult, from browsing the aisles of the supermarket to getting across the parking lot or going on a day out with friends.
But even many able-bodied people don’t get the recommended 10,000 steps a day in. No matter what your current fitness level is, there are doable ways to gradually increase your walking stamina.
Why Walking Is So Good For You
Walking is one of the easiest ways to boost your health in a big way. Regularly walking 30 minutes or more a day significantly lowers your blood sugar levels and blood pressure – two major risk factors for heart disease, stroke and diabetes. What’s more, going for a stroll helps you burn calories, build muscle and strengthen your bones.
And you’re not only getting physical benefits. A daily walk lifts your mood both during and after your workout. It also improves your memory and sparks your creativity.
Walking has several perks compared to other activities:
- It’s suitable for all fitness levels.
- You can easily incorporate walking into your daily schedule. Combining your workout with items on your to-do list – shopping, mowing the lawn or getting from A to B – comes in handy when you’re running low on time or energy.
- You don’t need much equipment besides comfortable shoes. Making sure you’re visible for passing traffic if your walking in the early morning or at night is advisable. A fitness tracker can definitely help, but is not necessary.
How to Work Your Way Up to Walking 10,000 Steps a Day
Yes, we now know 10,000 steps is a arbitrary number, but it’s still a healthy goal. Ten thousand steps translates into roughly 7 kilometers, 5 miles or 90 minutes of walking a day. Depending on your current activity level, that either sounds like a lot or a piece of cake.
The average Western person takes around 6,000 steps each day. Despite the best intentions, many people find it hard to fit more walking into their busy days. And when you suffer from chronic illness, simply getting off the couch can be a real struggle. So how can you increase your daily step count in a doable way?
- Determine your current activity level. Research shows we all overestimate how much we move our bodies. That’s why keeping track of your steps – with a pedometer app, fitness tracker or old-fashioned notebook – for one week or more gives you a clear and realistic picture of how much you’re really walking each day. A walking log can also give you clues about when and why you struggle to meet the recommend goal.
- Gradually build your walking stamina by adding 250-500 steps each week. Going from 6000 steps to 10,000 (or from housebound to 5K) in one go asks for bigger lifestyle changes than most of us can keep up in the long run. To build a lasting healthy habit, it’s better to start with doable goals and slowly work your way up. After one week – or how ever long it takes to effortlessly reach your new daily step count – you can add another 250-500 steps to your walking routine, until you’ve reached 10,000 steps or more a day.
Side note: Moving your body should never be about numbers – not the numbers on your scale, nor the amount of steps you take or reps you can do. However, a pedometer app or fitness tracker can be a helpful tool to become aware of your current activity level and help you measurably boost your fitness. Just don’t become obsessed with reaching your target goal; always listen to your body when it tells you to take a rest!
Now let’s have a look at how you can fit more walking into your days – no matter if you’re a spoonie, busy professional or tired parent.
38 Ideas for Walking 10,000 Steps A Day
Boost Your Daily Step Count
- Go for a Morning Mile. Find a ‘walking loop’ near your home or work place that’s roughly 1,5 km long and get your steps in first thing in the morning for a refreshing start of the day.
- It’s the standard advice but still useful: take the stairs whenever you can.
- Do your (food) shopping on foot. Carrying your groceries home is a great weight training exercise for your arms (unless you suffer from related health problems, in that case, please bring a trolly).
- Chase your kids – if that’s optional to begin with!
- Take a stroll after dinner. It’s not only healthy, but also a nice way to reflect on your day or have a good conversation with your spouse.
- Set a reminder to get up from your chair every hour. Just grab a glass of water, go to the bathroom or walk over to your colleague instead of sending an email.
- Use public transport to get around. Studies show that people who take the bus, train or tram walk 8 to 33 minutes more each day than car drivers do. And as an added bonus: it’s good for the environment too.
- Boost your productivity and energy levels by stretching your legs during your lunch break.
Walking on Weekends
- Stroll a farmer’s market searching for organic produce and artisanal bread.
- In that spirit: take your time running errands by swapping your weekly visit to the supermarket for a stop at the bakery, butcher and fruit-and-vegetable stall.
- Explore a nearby city on foot: see the sights, visit a museum or go window shopping.
- Meet up with friends outdoors. Instead of going for dinner and a movie, why not catch up during a walk or do something fun like miniature golf or laser tag?
- Head into nature for a hike. Nothing more relaxing than forest bathing or a walk on the beach.
- Grab your camera and go on a spontaneous photography tour of your area.
- Make the most of family time with active outings like going to the park, zoo or botanical garden.
- Go geocaching. In this modern-day treasure hunt, you navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates to search for a container hidden at that location.
Walking Training for Spoonies: From Couch to 1K
- Choose a time of day for your walk training when you’re most likely to feel relatively good and rested.
- Make it as easy as possible to head out the door so you don’t waste precious energy on getting ready. Lay out comfortable clothes that are suitable for the weather conditions, put your shoes and coat by the door and pack your bag the night before if needed.
- Plan a break halfway into your walk. Sit on a bench in the park (with a good book or bread for the ducks) or treat yourself to a cappuccino in that cozy coffee shop.
- If you tend to start feeling unwell by being physically active, make sure you bring whatever helps you prevent a ‘collapse’: a bottle of water, a snack, prescribed medication or aids…
- Have a purpose to go outside: walk to the shops to buy lunch, treat yourself to a magazine or drop a letter in the mail box. Not only does having a destination in mind motivate you to achieve your goal, but when fatigue, pain or other symptoms start to kick in, it helps to know how much further you have to go until you’ve reached your destination.
- Not enough energy for a long walk? Break your daily step goal into 2 or 3 shorter walks throughout the day.
- Make it fun! Listen to podcasts or audiobooks on your walks (and only on your walks) or get fired up by upbeat music.
- Take your time building your walking stamina. If 10 minutes of walking on 3 days a week is all you manage right now, that’s fine. Rest up after your physical efforts- an hour, the rest of the day or even the next. When your current level of walking doesn’t feel like an exertion anymore, you can slowly start make your walks a little longer or walk on more days of the week. Just don’t up your frequency and duration at the same time, to prevent health setbacks. Recovery is a marathon, not a sprint.
Ideas to Increase Your Step Count Indoors
- Have a living room dance party!
- Lazy day in front of the TV? Get up during commercial breaks to walk in place or run up and down the stairs.
- Even better: put on an exercise video.
- On a cold and rainy day, visit the mall and walk an extra round.
- Hit the gym for a low-key workout on the treadmill or elliptical trainer.
- Do household chores with vigor. Going room to room tidying up, making beds and vacuuming each floor, or mowing the lawn unnoticeably adds to your daily stepping count.
- Dress up warm and face the bad weather after all. Jump in puddles with your children, go for a sleigh ride or look for chestnuts in the autumnal woods.
Level Up: 10,000 Steps and Beyond
- Find ways to walk more during work hours: take phone calls while walking, have one-on-one meetings or brainstorm sessions outside (good for fresh ideas too!) or try a treadmill desk if you have a cooperative boss.
- Smash your daily goal with a Power Hour, during which you try to take as many steps as you can.
- Get a dog. (It shouldn’t need saying that this tip only applies if you’re able to take good care of a pet!)
- Try a new take on a ‘walking dinner’. Have an aperitif at one place, walk over to another restaurant for main course and get dessert/do karaoke somewhere else.
- Join a FitBit challenge. Start a friendly competition with friends and coworkers. Fun and motivation guaranteed!
- Embrace these 7 powerful ways to make walking more fun!
- Always go the extra mile. Park your car in the furthest spot. Get off one stop earlier when you take the bus. Take the stairs instead of the escalators. Be a little more ‘inefficient’.
What’s your secret to getting 10,000 steps a day in?
If you enjoyed reading this article, you might also like:
- Why You Should Get Your Daily Nature Fix (Even When You’re Housebound)
- How to Start Doing Yoga in Bed When You Have ME/CFS
- 101 Small Things You Can Do Today to Boost Your Health and Happiness
*Top image by Tobi via pexels.com