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How can I get more steps in (and why do I need to)?

Written by Sarah on

A key goal for a lot of people is to get more steps in, with the hallowed 10,000 a day figure being the most common target. But why is 10,000 the holy grail? Why does our step count matter and how can we hit our step goal if we’re stuck behind a desk all day?

The idea of aiming for 10,000 steps a day originated from a marketing campaign in Japan in the 1960s (to coincide with the 1964 Tokyo Olympics) for a pedometer called "Manpo-kei," which translates to "10,000 steps metre."

Although that original 10,000 was thought to be an arbitrary figure, there have been various scientific studies which evidence the health benefits of getting your steps in, from lowering the risk of dementia to improving cardiovascular health. The calories you burn from non-exercise specific activity (walking round the house/to the shop, gardening, housework etc) can make a much bigger impact on our overall calorie expenditure than those we burn from ‘official exercise’ (going for a run, training in the gym etc). So, our step totals are an important factor in our overall health, even if 10,000 is a bit of an abstract number and might not be right for everyone (depending on your life-stage and current health), it’s a good guideline starting point.

I’ve recently returned from a long weekend in Berlin. Alongside the benefits of exploring a different city and taking some headspace away from work, I absolutely smashed my steps goal every day of my holiday, without even thinking about it! I wasn’t doing any of my usual training or runs or even planning long walks. I was just wandering around the city, going to galleries and museums and getting from A to B.

Berlin is a city which likes stairs (our beautiful Airbnb rental, benefitting from amazing views, was at the top of 4 flights). The public transport there works really well too meaning taking the train rather than driving between places seems the obvious option. When we visit a new place, exploring on foot is often the best way to see a city as well, to truly capture the character and vibe of a place.

My trip to Berlin (and how easy reaching my steps target there was) made me think about tips which might be helpful to others looking to get more of those daily steps under their belt (or on their smartwatch!) I’m going to share them here:

1. Get a tracker. If you’re not tracking it’s really hard to know how many steps you are doing on a daily basis. A watch is best as you can wear it all the time whereas if you rely on your phone to count your steps you have to remember to carry it all the time. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get an accurate one.

2. Is public transport an option instead of driving? We do so many more steps when we take the train or bus. Can you rejig your day to allow a little more time for your journey? With the potential added benefit of reading a book/listening to some lovely audio during your journey rather than having to focus your attention on driving.

3. When you’re in stations/airports/shopping centres taking the stairs instead of the lift/escalator is a great way to get some more steps in (and they tend to be way less crowded too which is an added bonus).

4. Treat where you live like a holiday destination – explore new places and walk down streets/paths you’ve never explored before.

5. Have a desk-based job? Could any of your meetings be turned into walking ones? Is a stand up desk an option? You don’t need to stand up all day, you could get an adjustable one and use it for sections of the day.

6. Make the most out of the light mornings and evenings. I’m writing this blog in mid-May. Now is the perfect time to start a new early morning/after dinner walking habit. Even if it’s raining – if you’re out first thing you can get drenched and then come back to a hot shower or if it’s the last thing you’re doing in the evening it doesn’t matter if your make up gets washed off/your hair gets wet! Walking after dinner is a great way to break a snacking habit too, if you’re an evening snacker.

7. Get an accountability buddy (or squad). Are there any friends you could regularly meet up with for a walk? Or local walking groups you could join? Doing an activity with someone else means you are more likely to show up to it.

8. Can’t find anyone to walk with? Listen to your favourite podcast or an inspiring music playlist instead to keep you company.

9. Aim for a weekly target rather than a daily one. Some days it’s going to be tough to get many steps in. You might be travelling, have back-to-back meetings or have numerous other things going on which mean you’re more sedentary than you’d like to be. Don’t stress about those days and feel like a failure, just aim to get more steps in on the other days when you have more time and flexibility. That’s why a weekly target of 50,000-70,000 steps might be a more achievable goal rather than a daily 10,000.

10. Following on from the last point - set a target that’s right for your body and life. 10,000 is an arbitrary number which comes from a Japanese marketing campaign. There is no magic number of steps for optimum health so set a target which works for you as an individual and go from there, reviewing and adapting as you go along.

If I can support you with starting a new walking habit or getting moving more generally get in touch for a free consultation.

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