With only a third of people in the UK estimated to be active enough to be fit and healthy, walking is a great way to encourage more of us to improve our health. After all, it's a cheap, easy and fun way to boost your wellbeing.

If you're interested in health and wellbeing, you've probably come across the idea of walking 10,000 steps a day. In studies it has been found that taking 10,000 steps a day may well be related to health benefits, such as lower blood pressure, better blood glucose levels and improved mood. Aiming for 10,000 steps a day can help you achieve the current recommended activity target, which is 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week.

Yet most of us aren't reaching anything near 10,000 steps a day. According to the NHS the average British person walks between 3,000 and 4,000 steps a day. Indeed, 10,000 steps - depending on the length of your stride - is about the equivalent of walking about 5 miles, which may sound like an awful lot if you're not particularly active.

Start slowly

If you're new to exercise 10,000 steps may be too much to begin with and you may want to build up your fitness gradually. If this is the case it's a good idea to aim for, say, 4,000 steps a day to begin with, then add a thousand extra steps each week until you reach the magic 10,000. 

You may want to start by simply taking a five- or 10-minute walk around the block, then progress to a circuit around your local park then a longer walk down a country path or along a river or canal.

Try to keep a record of where you walk and how long you walk for, so that you can track your progress week by week. And don't forget, as long as you go at a brisk pace, it all count towards your 150 minutes a week too.

Everyday activities

If you're a busy professional, you may be wondering where you're going to find the time to put in 5 miles of walking a day. The good news is there are lots of ways to boost your step count, and they don't all involve walking, as other activities can count too. Even things you may not think of as exercise can add to your daily step count including gardening, housework and shopping

There are also lots of small ways to notch up more steps. At work, for instance, you could use a kitchen on another floor when it's time for a tea break. Try counting how many steps you take walking to the kitchen, including the stairs. There's a good chance it could be as high as 100. So if you did that just 3 times a day, it's 300 steps towards your goal. 

Setting a reminder on your desktop computer or your phone to get up from your desk and walk around the office or your home every hour could also boost your step count. Again, count how many steps you take and work out your daily total.

Fitness trackers and step counters

You may be asking at this point, do I need a pedometer or a fitness tracker to count my steps? When you're first starting out these devices can be very useful when calculating your steps in a day and they can even help boost your motivation.

If you don't want to purchase a fitness tracker or step counter, you may be able to use your smartphone to count your steps by downloading a walking app or step tracker. However, neither of these options are essential. If you have a good idea of how many steps you take doing everyday activities you can easily do your own calculations.

Activities to reach 10,000 steps

To help you work out what you have to do achieve 10,000 steps, here's a quick guide to activities you can easily fit into your everyday routine and the number of steps you can achieve per minute by doing them, including non-walking activities (all step counts are approximate):

Activity Average steps per minute
Walking (moderate pace) 100
Walking (fast pace) 130
Moderate gardening (e.g. weeding) 73
Heavy gardening (e.g. digging) 155
Mowing the lawn / raking 135
Housework (vacuuming) 90
Housework (mopping) 85
Housework (scrubbing the floor) 140
Housework (window cleaning) 75
Food shopping 60
Dancing (slow) 55
Dancing (fast) 175
Washing the car 75
Waxing the car 100
Cycling (5mph) 55
Cycling (10mph) 93
Cycling (15mph) 160
Cycling (20mph) 200
Bowling 55
Golfing (walking, no cart) 100
Playing tennis (singles) 160
Playing tennis (doubles) 110
Playing ping pong 90
Playing football (casual) 207
Swimming (front crawl, 1mph) 91
Swimming (front crawl, 2mph) 156
Zumba 152

What could 10,000 steps look like?

Knowing the approximate number of steps you take per minute doing everyday activities can help you calculate exactly what you need to do to reach 10,000, not just occasionally but every day. 

Without taking into account the number of steps you may take at work by sitting less and taking regular breaks to move around, here's a simple example that comes to 9,600 steps - just 400 steps short of your goal: 

Activity Steps
Walking to work (15 minutes) 1,500 steps
Taking a walk at lunchtime (30 minutes) 3,000 steps
Walking home (15 minutes) 1,500 steps
Shopping for groceries for dinner (10 minutes) 600 steps
Washing your car (20 minutes) 1,500 steps
Vacuuming the house (20 minutes) 1,500 steps

Join a walking group (in the UK)

If you need something to keep you motivated, try joining a local walking group - the ones listed below are for UK only but be sure to check your local area for other walking groups.

The Walking for Health programme, run jointly by Ramblers and Macmillan Cancer Support, offers more than 3,000 free short walks around the country each week. Visit the website to search for walks in your area.

Another way to find organised walking events is to visit the Walk4Life website, where you can also find someone to walk with if you prefer not to join a group. Many of the walking events are run by local authorities, just click on 'find an event' to find one in your area.

Other organisations you can join that include walking groups include the British Walking Federation,Metropolitan Walkers (for people in their 20s and 30s who live in London and the South East) and - for when you're ready to walk further and for longer, the Long Distance Walkers Association.

If you're new to exercise or if you have a pre-existing medical condition, check with your doctor, physician or GP before getting started.

For more tips, recipes, and resources to help you promote your physical wellbeing, visit CABA's physical wellbeing microsite.

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