HOnce upon a time over the past decade, I tried to dethrone the family walking champion: my 67-year-old dad. Despite my youthful edge—he’s over 30, he quickly points out—I’ve never made strides more than once. I find this painful and an indirect point of pride; His physique is great. It’s also an excellent motivation to finally find creative ways to get over it.
My dad and I compete using Our favorite pedometer app, which displays each day’s steps in a bar graph. (Even though we wear Apple Watches, we’d rather have a better app for logging our entire day’s steps, and we kept our phones on us the whole time.) If you’re barely moving, your results for the day will show up in red in disapproval. If you land somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 steps, it will be a milder orange. Once you hit 10,000 steps a day, the graph turns green and shows your phone screen with colored confetti as you jump up and down (and maybe forward; more steps). We send each other screenshots at the end of the day, and while I hit at least 10,000 a few times a week, it’s over 20,000 steps every single day.
We both really win, say fitness experts: striving to increase your step count by any amount is always a good thing. “Walking is probably the most basic and most important thing that almost everyone can do,” says Dr. Tamanna Singh, co-director of the Sports Cardiology Center at Cleveland Clinic. “It allows us to raise our heart rate, build our aerobic endurance. It helps control our blood pressure, helps control our cholesterol, helps manage weight, and helps control blood sugar.”
Walking is a low-impact activity, which means it’s gentle on the joints — and unlike other types of exercise, there’s no learning curve to doing it correctly or safely. Research indicates that it can Improve your body mass indexreduce the risk Type 2 diabetes And brain attackand cut Chances of early death. to me study Published in 2012, walking just an hour a day can halve the effects of weight-promoting genes. Another study It found that walking for just 15 minutes can curb cravings for chocolate, while post yet suggested that people who walked at least 20 minutes a day, five days a week, reported 43% fewer sick days than those who exercised once a week or less. Obviously, there are more reasons than not to walk.
In general, the more steps you aim for for a day, the better. But don’t worry if you fail to meet the 10,000 per day benchmark. “This was a number that was put out there as more of a marketing ploy,” says Cedric X. Bryant, president and chief scientific officer of the American Council on Exercise. “If individuals can get about 7,000 steps or so, they will do a very good job of achieving the goal.” Of course, it depends on your profile, he adds: Someone who is currently doing little or no daily activity would benefit from logging just a few thousand steps per day. “It takes a very small dose to get a very nice response.”
Here are nine ways to step up your pace — and make achieving your goal more fun.
Recruit a workout buddy or join a walking club
Halfway through the pandemic, fitness guru Brianna Joy Coon realized many of her friends had fled New York City. She missed being able to call them to go for a walk — so she posted a TikTok video inviting her more than 1 million followers to join her for a walk through town. “I thought maybe I’d get 10 or 20,” she recalls. About 300 women attended. Now, Kuhn is driving City girls who walk, a club that meets every Sunday for a 40-minute walk. More than 700 people of all ages joined one of the group’s latest tours. Walking with a group provides accountability and can make exercise more enjoyable; Cohn has found that there are also a variety of mental health benefits, including less loneliness. Her club spin-offs have appeared all over the world. If there is nowhere to live, consider launching your own. “Don’t be afraid to take that first step and post about it, because you never know who you’ll meet or who will want to join,” she says.
Stop texting people near you
What do you do when you want to talk to someone upstairs or down the hall? “We may yell, we may text,” says Bryant. (sinner). “Instead, get up, walk, and have face-to-face contact with them.” Replace every text, email, call, or Slack with the target near your attention with a personal visit, and your daily step count will skyrocket.
Walk in place during TV shows
Bryant suggests that when you watch non-streaming television, stand up every time there is a commercial break and march in place until the show resumes. “We know that disrupting stable behavior is very beneficial,” he adds. For example, research suggests Standing and moving for three minutes every half hour may reduce the negative health effects associated with prolonged sitting. Other studies have found three bursts of one-minute activity each day Promote longevityand that in place during TV commercials Physical activity and daily steps can indeed be increased.
Get (or borrow) a dog
It’s one thing to skip the walk and let yourself down; It’s another thing to let down a set of small canine eyes. That’s why every morning, 2 hours before work, my standard poodle and I go for a 3-mile walk. It moves at a single pace – gallop – which means we’re recording a lot of steps very efficiently.
Search Posted in Scientific reports 2019 reports that dog owners are four times more likely to meet exercise recommendations than those without dogs. More than half of the dog owners surveyed reported walking their pets at least 150 minutes a week at a pace of 2.5 miles per hour. previous studypublished in 2017, found that dog owners spend an extra 22 minutes per day walking and take an extra 2,760 steps per day.
If you don’t have a dog, Singh suggests volunteering to walk dogs at a local animal shelter. “It’s a great way for people to move around and also do a little bit of a favor,” she says. “You help yourself as much as you help a little animal, and they deserve to be walked as much as we do.”
Try a fitness tracker
Research shows that fitness trackers motivate: one study, published in 2022, found that people who used a pedometer walked nearly 400 more steps per day than those without a pedometer. And when Australian researchers They reviewed hundreds of studies involving 164,000 people worldwide using wearable fitness trackers, and concluded that the devices encouraged walking up to 40 extra minutes each day, which equates to about 1,800 extra steps.
“Especially if you’re a visual person, this is a great way to see your progress,” says Singh. “I think we sometimes underestimate or overestimate how much we move, so having an actual sign of that is very helpful.”
Create some competition
My dad and I vie for bragging rights — but Singh suggests raising the stakes. Create a competition with your friends, family, or colleagues, and stick to at least eight to 12 weeks, she advises. “Try to accumulate a certain number of steps per month or per week, and maybe get a couple of rewards intermittently.” At the end of the competition, whoever has the most steps will win, for example, a gift card to his favorite restaurant or a festive party in his honor. “It’s a friendly way to get something positive out of the competition, and to continue to support each other,” says Singh.
As Bryant told me of his favorite walking strategies, he was on the move. He told me, “I have a headset on and I’m on the move all the time.” In addition to walking indoors or out during calls, he aims to host walking meetings with his teammates. You can do the same. Notify meeting attendees in advance so they can dress accordingly, and choose a flat path—ideally in a quiet area like a park.
If it’s cold outside, design an indoor circuit
One late December evening, my dad and I realized we were 200 steps away from achieving our goals. So we walked up and down the stairs, and across the hall, over and over, cheering all the way.
It may sound a little silly, but inner circles work, Singh says. Play some music and line a conga through the house, or listen to an entertaining podcast. She suggests committing to taking the stairs a few times each day. “It’s a great way to build endurance, strength, and power,” she says.
There are plenty of other great ways to benefit from movement indoors, too, says certified personal trainer Michael Jones. He recommends jogging in place (or on a treadmill), shadow boxing, and dancing. “It’s fun, and it’s sure to get your heart rate up and help you achieve your running goals without leaving the house,” he says.
Always be prepared
To cultivate a no-excuses lifestyle, Singh recommends always keeping your sneakers with you. Going out on errands? Do you commute to and from work? Pack your walking shoes so if you get the chance, you can get out of your car and sneak in for a brisk walk. “Keep them where you see them,” she says.
This meshes well with my super-walking dad’s best advice about taking lots of steps: “Discipline is key,” he tells me. “And then the willpower to continue. I make myself do it.”
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