ways to increase your daily steps and keep fit

If you don’t walk much, reaching 10,000 steps can seem like a lot. But, as this post shows, it doesn’t have to be an insurmountable task. There are simple ways you can increase your steps to improve your heart health and muscle strength.

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You’ve probably heard that we should walk 10,000 steps a day. Depending on the length of your stride, that’s about 5 miles a day.  It’s thought that walking 10,000 steps a day may lower blood pressure, improve blood glucose levels, and boost moods. 

Aiming for 10,000 steps a day can also help you achieve the current recommended activity target, which is 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week. 

Yet many of us aren’t achieving 10,000 steps a day. According to the NHS, the average Brit walks between 3,000 and 4,000 steps a day. 

start slowly 

If you’re not used to exercising, 10,000 steps a day may sound unachievable.  

So start small instead, with something like 4,000 steps a day, then add an extra 1,000 steps a week until you reach 10,000.  

The more you walk, the easier you’ll find it and the more you’ll be able to push yourself. 

You could start by going for a five-minute walk around the block, then move up to a circuit around your local park, then a longer walk down a country path, or along a river or canal. 

Keep a record of where you’ve walked and how long for, as this will mean you can track your progress. 

You can do this using a smartwatch, or even just the step counter on your phone. Some can even help you track things like your stride length, heart rate, and walking asymmetry. 

So long as you walk briskly, it will count towards your 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week. 

how to get more steps into your day 

If you’re a busy professional, sometimes finding just five minutes to exercise sounds like a challenge. 

Try counting how many steps different activities take. Just going to a different office building, or walking around the block, could be as many as 100 steps. If you did that three times a day, you’d be 300 steps closer to your goal. 

If you’re at home, you could: 

  • walk on the spot, or around the house, while waiting for the kettle to boil 
  • use a toilet in another part of the house 
  • work upstairs so that you have to go downstairs to get food and drinks 
  • go for a lunchtime walk 
  • use the time you would’ve spent on your commute to walk around your local area 
  • look into a service like BorrowMyDoggy, where you can walk other people’s dogs if you don’t have your own 

If you’re in an office, you could: 

  • use a kitchen on another floor 
  • if you need to talk to someone, visit them in person instead of calling or emailing 
  • go for a lunchtime walk 
  • get off public transport a stop early, or park farther away 

It can also help to set a reminder on one of your devices to get you to move away from your desk. Many smartwatches now send hourly reminders to encourage you to stand up every hour. 

what could 10,000 steps look like? 

Knowing the rough number of steps you take per minute doing everyday activities can help you calculate what you need to do to reach 10,000 every day.  

Without considering the number of steps you may take by sitting less and taking regular moving breaks, 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 
  • lunchtime walk (30 minutes) 3,000 steps
  • walking home (15 minutes) 1,500 steps 
  • grocery shopping (10 minutes) 600 steps 
  • washing your car (20 minutes) 1,500 steps 
  • vacuuming the house (20 minutes) 1,500 steps 

activities to help you reach 10,000 steps 

Here’s a quick guide of different activities and the number of (approximate) steps you could achieve per minute by doing them, including non-walking activities: 

  • 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

join a walking group (in the UK) 

If you struggle to stay motivated, why not join a walking group? 

The ones listed below are UK-only, so be sure to check your local area for other options. 

The Walking for Health programme, run jointly by Ramblers and Macmillan Cancer Support, offers over 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. Local authorities run many of the walking events. 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 have a pre-existing medical condition, check with your doctor before getting started.

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