10 ways to get to 10,000 steps a day

When it comes to keeping the doctor away, 10,000 steps might be even better than an apple.

The benefits of 10,000 steps go on and on—better moods, stronger bones, lower blood pressure, and a reduced risk of almost every chronic disease there is, including diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer. It boosts your energy, strengthens your lungs, and clears your mind. In short, walking is wonderful.

It should also be noted that 10,000 steps is a good target because of what it means you’re NOT doing. Namely, sitting all day. The more time you spend stepping, the less time you spend sitting, which is always a good trade for your health and wellbeing.

Yet, it is important to note that there’s nothing special about hitting the 10,000 mark. It’s just a big, round number. Any big number will do. 11,111. 12,345. 15,000. 10k isn’t magical. It’s just a lot of steps.

What actually matters is finding a number that challenges you to move more. If you’re currently only getting 2,000 steps a day, a goal of 5,000 is likely a better place to start. If you’re already getting 10,000 without trying, upping your number to 12,000 could be a good challenge. When it comes to steps, more is more.

But okay, that’s enough with the health benefits and the goal setting. Let’s get to the heart of the matter – how to actually get 10,000 steps a day.

How to Reach 10,000

Setting a goal of 10,000 and actually taking 10,000 are two different stories. To get to 10k, you’re going to need to find some ways to sneak more steps in throughout the day. Here are ten strategies you can put into action.

1. Count your steps.

Everything starts with measurement because the mere act of measuring something can lead to improvement. Track your spending and you’ll likely spend less. Track your eating and you’ll likely eat better.

Why? Because making improvements requires attention. We have to focus on something to make it better. Tracking helps narrow our focus, concentrating our efforts on a specific action and a specific outcome.

Whether you use a wearable tracker, pedometer, or an app on your smartphone, start tracking and you’ll begin to realize what a 10k day looks like. You’ll learn which days are the lowest, where you have room to improve, and what actions you’re going to need to take to get to where you want to be. People who track stay on track for a reason.

2. Start small and build up.

Once you start tracking, you’ll soon learn that 10,000 is a lot. Perhaps even more than you thought. Looking down and seeing 2,000 at 10 o’clock at night can be a truly humbling experience.

But don’t worry! We all start somewhere and we all certainly have those 2k days.

The key to getting motivated is to break down your 10k goal into smaller, more attainable goals. No matter where you’re starting from, your first goal should be to simply take more steps than you currently do. Because once you’ve mastered how to do a little bit more, the sky is the limit.

So, instead of immediately aiming for 10k, try to aim for just 10% more at first, and work your way up from there.

3. Use active transportation.

Walking or cycling isn’t always an option. Much of modern life is designed around the car, which makes things hard sometimes. 

But how often do you drive places you could’ve easily walked to? How often do you search for the closest possible parking spot instead of walking across the lot?

Getting places actively is an awesome strategy because it’s so time-efficient. You have to go places either way, it just makes sense to use that commuting time to sneak in more steps.

If you can’t walk or cycle to work, can you park farther away from your office? Or drive part way and walk the rest?

When riding the bus or subway, can you get off two stops early? Or get on one stop later?  

When going to the store or an appointment, can you park in a lot that’s farther away?

The important idea here is that it doesn’t have to be one or the other. Active or inactive. It can be a combination of both. You don’t have to sell your car and resolve to never drive again. Just be mindful of ways you can add in steps and try to make walking or cycling your default for short distances, rather than taking quick two-minute car rides to the store.  

4. Find ways to swap sitting time with standing (or walking) time.

Instead of sending an email, walk across your office to deliver a message to your colleague. When ordering food, opt for pick-up instead of delivery (by the time you walk there and back, you’ll definitely be hungry). Pace when taking phone calls, instead of sitting still. Stand up whenever possible. Take the stairs instead of the escalator.

We sit too much and walk too little, so look for every opportunity to swap one for the other. No matter how small or insignificant it might seem, it all adds up (to 10,000 hopefully)!

5. Dance like no one is counting!

Have some fun with your steps by dancing during the day. Dancing is great for your health and an easy way to sneak in more steps while you’re getting up in the morning, making dinner, doing housework or just taking a break. Crank up the tunes and bust a move.

6. Walking-everything during your workday.

Walking meetings. Walking breaks. Walking brainstorms. A walk to grab a coffee with a colleague. A walk to get lunch. A 3 PM energy-booster walk. Maybe even some quick flights of stairs if you’re feeling it?

We often associate being productive at work with sitting diligently behind a desk. But the truth is that adding movement to your workday is essential to being productive, creative, and happy with the work you’re doing.

(Want to learn more about how to sit less and move more at work? Check out UPnGO with ParticipACTION.)

7. Create a competition.

Some people are competitive. Like really competitive. If that’s you, then make it a competition.

Compete with friends, or co-workers, or neighbours. Anyone who’s as passionate about 10,000 a day as you are. Seeing yourself in second place by just a few steps at the end of the day can be just the push you need to quickly jog on the spot or have a quick dance party before bed!  

8. Drink more water.

Drinking more water throughout the day can help in a couple ways. First, staying hydrated helps keep your energy levels high. By drinking more water, you’ll have more energy to move. Second, you’ll be forced to take more frequent bathroom breaks, which can quickly add up to a surprising number of steps (especially if you go to the far bathroom).

9. Get outside!

An hour spent outside is almost always more active than one spent indoors. On average, for every hour kids spend outside they take 762 additional steps. Knowing you sit less and move more outdoors can help you keep things simple. Whenever you’re wondering how to get more steps…go outside!

10. Enjoy it.

Finally, one thing that’s often lost in all this talk of 10,000 steps is how enjoyable walking can be. It’s awesome to walk around your neighbourhood. You hear birds and meet dogs and smell scrumptious foods. You get time to think about pressing problems and come up with creative solutions. It can also be a great opportunity to catch up with a friend or family member.

10,000 steps isn't just good for your health, it’s good for your life. For your mind and body and soul. For your health and your happiness.

And remember that, much like life, the key to 10,000 steps is taking it one step at a time.

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