Most adults need at least 150 minutes — or two and a half hours — of exercise each week. Walking is a great way to get that exercise. Experts recommend walking at least 10,000 steps a day, but the average American walks only 3,000 to 4,000 steps a day. How can you fit in those extra steps?
The answer is to use a pedometer. According to the Harvard Health Letter, a review of 26 studies showed that people who use pedometers walk an average of 2,000 steps more each day than those who do not use them. Their overall activity levels also increase by 27 percent. Make sure you choose the right pedometer for you and that you’re using it properly. When it comes to fitting extra steps into your daily routine, you might have to get creative.
Choosing a Pedometer
The first step in improving your fitness through walking is to choose a pedometer. Like many who are new to walking for fitness, you might be surprised at the sheer variety of pedometers and activity trackers available on the market. The simplest and least expensive models measure the number of steps you take each day — and for most walkers, that’s enough. But more complex and expensive models monitor a range of other things like your heart rate, the number of calories you’ve burned, and the number of miles you’ve walked. A further advantage of more complicated units is that they’re typically more intuitive and easier to set up.
Setting up Your Pedometer
Before you can begin using your pedometer, you need to set it up to accurately measure your stride length. Some models consider a “stride” to be a single step, while others might consider a stride to be two steps, or the distance between two heel strikes. Read your model’s instructions to make sure you’re entering the right measurements.
Now it’s time to measure your stride length. The best way to do this is to mark off a specific distance on your floor, sidewalk, or lawn, and then walk that distance at a normal pace while counting the number of steps it takes you to cross it. For example, if you mark off a distance of 10 feet, start walking before you reach the beginning of your measured distance so you’re already moving at your normal pace by the time you reach the start line. Count the number of steps it takes you to reach the finish line, and then divide the 10 feet by that number to figure out the length of your stride.
Using Your Pedometer
Pedometers work by measuring the electrical impulses of your motion, so it’s important to wear them properly. Some of the more expensive models will measure your steps accurately no matter where or at what angle you wear them. Others need to be fastened onto your body at hip level on the right side of your body, in line with your knee, in a perfect vertical alignment, in order to work well.
Fitting Extra Steps Into Your Routine
In order to fit several thousand extra steps into your daily routine to reach a goal of 10,000, you’re going to need to use your imagination. Ten thousand steps is the equivalent of a five-mile walk, which takes about 75 minutes to complete at a brisk four-mile-an-hour pace. If you don’t have that kind of time every day don’t worry.
First of all, you’re probably already getting in about 3,000 steps in the course of your normal day, walking around the office, the house, the grocery store, and elsewhere. Establish a baseline by wearing the pedometer for three days as you continue your normal routine, then dividing that number by three to see where your average number of daily steps already stands. Walking at a four-mile-an-hour pace for half an hour will get you another 4,000 steps, putting you much closer to your goal. Add in more steps by:
- Taking the stairs instead of the elevator
- Walking the dog a little longer than usual
- Making plans to walk with a friend or loved one
- Pacing while you talk on the phone
- Parking further away from a store entrance when you go shopping
- Making multiple trips when you bring in groceries, set the table, or carry laundry upstairs
- Walking around the airport while you wait for a flight
- Getting up to go talk to coworkers in person, instead of just emailing them
If you can’t reach the goal of 10,000 steps right away, don’t feel bad. Even increasing your physical activity a little bit is a victory. Aim to increase your daily number of steps by 2,000 each week until you’ve reached the goal of 10,000 steps per day.
Experts say that walking 10,000 steps per day is optimum for maintaining good health. A pedometer, along with a little creativity and determination, can help you reach that goal before you know it.