Okay, first the facts: According to a recent Stanford study, the average American is taking about 4,774 steps a day. Most fitness professionals, myself included, would encourage you to aim for 10,000 per day, so we’re hovering at about 50% of where we should be as a nation.
Not sure how many steps you’re taking in a day? Please, stop what you're doing right now and go get yourself a device that will help you figure out where you’re at on that scale of coach potato to super-stepper.
It doesn’t have to be an expensive investment as you can get a pedometer for as little as $10, but I always recommend the Fitbit Alta because it will give for far more data (including how much you’re sleeping at night) and it’s cute enough that you can wear it every day.
I have been wearing my Fitbit Alta religiously for 3 years and I love the feedback it gives me through the mobile app. It’s the BOMB and it sinks to my MyFitnessPal.com account, so all those extra calories I’m burning go straight to the bottom line of all those calories I’m eating and tracking. It’s really a beautiful thing.
How to increase your daily step average.
Well, the short and cheeky answer is to walk more, but I recognize that’s probably not helpful.
Find something that reminds you to walk more (the trigger) which is your new Fitbit or pedometer. That will be a great motivator, especially as you start to track your progress. Remember, what gets measured, grows! Now start looking for opportunities to walk more. Walk in the house if you need to. Make more trips up and down the stairs, do you own housecleaning and play around in the garden. These are awesome ways to get your steps in and it’s the kind of work that gives you a sense of immediate accomplishment (two birds, one stone).
Personally, I don’t have a yard and I don’t like housecleaning, so I outsource that and go for long walks in my neighborhood instead. It’s become a daily habit of mine and I live in a beautiful area that makes this process very enjoyable. If you don't like the area that you live or it's not amenable to walking, drive somewhere that you can walk! If it’s the middle of a miserable winter, go walk the local mall. Just be sure to leave your wallet at home as this can be detrimental to other areas of your life.
Certainly, one of the best ways to stay accountable to your walking commitment is to have someone who relies on you to walk them. These are my little personal walking coaches, and while they’re often painfully slow with the pace, they’re still pretty darn cute, aren’t they?
Why bother walking more?
Here’s the great thing about a walking routine…. Not only are you burning more calories and giving your heart rate a little boost, it’s great mental hygiene. I used to rely on running to sort through the problem de jour, but now that I run less, I walk and think instead. OMG, I can go out in the WORST mood and come back feeling like a different person.
If you find walking boring, then find a friend to do it with you! I wasn’t a fan of running with other people, because it’s hard to run and talk, but walk and talk? Heck, I can do that all day long. But to be honest, I love solo walks with my headphones. I listen to audiobooks or my favorite podcasts and I zone out for an hour while I get my steps in. It’s the perfect way to spend an hour.
I’m sure you guys have heard this new saying that sitting is the new smoking. According to recent research, even people who workout will increase their risk of death if they sit most of the day. Remember, exercise is something people generally do for 30 or 40 minutes a day. So what you do for the rest of your day really matters. In fact, the more you sit, the higher your risk of an early death.
Next steps (pun intended)
So here’s what I recommend you do next:
- Get yourself a device for tracking your steps. The investment in your health is 100% worth it. Ask for a Fitbit for Christmas or just treat yo self!
- Now make a goal to reach 10,000 steps a day as soon as you can - like, tomorrow. Fortunately, you don’t need an amazing level of fitness to reach that level of steps. You can walk as fast or slow as you like, but you do have to put one step in front of the other!
- Make yourself accountable! With a Fitbit, you can sync your account with friends and groups. Make it fun! Set up a challenge with your family or coworkers. The person that walks the most steps in a certain timeframe wins a prize. I freaking LOVE little games like this (did you know I’m the reigning world champion in Jingle Bingo?).
- Go buy yourself a smaller pair of pants, because you’re going to need them soon, you svelte little thing, you!