The Shape up America initiative suggest that we should make about 10,000 steps each day. These 10.000 steps translate to 5 miles or 8 kilometers. This seemed to me as the simplest walking fitness plan there was. Now depending on your lifestyle this could be easy or a bit of a task to achieve. However, I was curious how many steps I made each day and started my very own 10,000 step challenge.

The starting point

It was a bit of a surprise to me to find out how much we walk each day. Naturally the figure varies from person to person and is influenced by our jobs but on average a person makes 2,000 to 5,000 steps daily. If your lifestyle is more sedentary you will probably be closer to the 2,000 step mark. If your work requires field work  you will probably be closer to the 5,000 step mark.  I was curious and wanted to check where I was  on this scale.  I got my phone out and downloaded a pedometer app. Stuck the phone in my pocket and measured my activities for a week. Each day the number varied slightly but sure enough there it was hanging around the 4,000 step mark (about 2 miles), nowhere near the 10,000 mark.

This was a bit of a surprise to me, as I always thought that I walked much more each day. I was determined to make it to the 10,000 step mark. Now please take into consideration that I am not an athletic type. I also have a very sedentary 9-5 job.  There are also family obligations to be taken care of daily. It was unrealistic to except that I could completely change my life just to get to this goal. So getting to the 10,000 step mark would take some effort and a few small changes.

The technical side of how to count steps

For counting the steps I used an app for my phone. Yes, you can go out and buy a dedicated gadget that will probably give you more precise readings but I decided to go the simplest way. We all have phones and most of the day they are with us. The pedometer app would give me a close approximation of my steps and better yet would keep a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly track of my progress.

As I explained there was no way I could afford to really change my life schedule. It would have been unreasonable to expect that I would become an athletic type over night. However I was determined to incorporate the program in my life and push the boundaries of my current walking pattern. To achieve the goal of 10,000 steps I needed to tweak a couple of things in my life .

My simple walking fitness plan

  • Park farther away.
    The first thing I did to boost my step count is park my car a bit farther away at work. That way I made a couple of 100 steps each day to and from work. Not a huge change, but each step counts.
  • Take the stairs.
    I started choosing the stairs instead of the elevator. At first, I only went down the stairs and used the elevator to go up. With time as my stamina increased I started going up the stairs also. Again this was a couple more steps added to each day.
  • Take a walk during lunch.
    Lunch breaks were my biggest improvement. I started walking during my lunch breaks. I would put my phone in my back pocket, take a sandwich with me and go for a walk. You would be amazed how much can be achieved during an hour. Soon enough a colleague of mine joined in on the walks making them much more fun. These walks add up to a couple of 1,000 steps easily.
  • Walk in the afternoon.
    After work I would take my small family for a walk. This has become a very nice habit. Not only do we get the extra steps in, but more importantly we get time for our selves, to talk to each other without the TV or internet distracting us.

When it gets hard

What I have noticed is that the weather really effects the daily achievements. On rainy days it is much harder to achieve the goal then on sunny days. Also in winter it is much harder to achieve the goal then in summer. This does not mean it can not be achieved, you just need to be creative. What I did during the cold months was go to malls and window shop there. Malls might not me as nice as the outdoors but the steps are the same.

These couple of things worked for me to reach my goal of 10,000 steps a day. Incorporating and maintaining the 10,000 step habit is a bit harder but is achievable. Do I hit 10,000 steps each day? No, but that’s OK. Some days I get 7,000 some days I get 15,000, the way I see it the important thing is that I have moved away from the 4,000 step mark. As I see it each step counts and being aware of the number gives you the motivation to improve on it.

Walking frequently is the key

When starting this don’t be discouraged if 10,000 steps is too much at first. The important thing is, from which ever number you start, to slowly work up to the 10,000 mark. Depending on your health it might take days or weeks to reach the number. That is OK. The important thing is to improve your health slowly and to make walking more a habit that fits into your lifestyle.

On the other hand if you are a super fit person and 10,000 steps is easy for you, be creative. Make it fun. See if you can achieve a bigger number or see if you can achieve the number in less time. Compete with a friend, see who gets more steps in a month or by the end of the year or in less time. Just try to incorporate more walking into your life since walking has shown to have numerous health benefits.

As walking is one of the most natural activities for humans the health benefits are obviously there as many studies have concluded. Everything from better blood sugar levels, to better blood pressure, to finding it easier to fall asleep at night, to ultimately start losing weight. The thing I really like about this program is that anyone can do it. Walking is free. No matter how healthy we seam to be we all could benefit with a couple more steps.

I would love to hear from you. What lifestyle tweaks worked for you? Did you make the program fun? Did you find it easier doing this by your self or with friends? Did listening to music while walking improve your results? Leave a comment and share your experience.

Photo credit: Walking for Fitness by Helgi Halldórsson