When it comes to movement, I try to make my days as inefficient as possible. I know that sounds crazy—especially since my book is all about getting more out of doing less—but hear me out. By doing things less efficiently (walking to the coffee shop instead of brewing a cup at home, pacing inside while talking on the phone, choosing the stairs) I’m able to build more organic movement into my day and reach at least 10,000 steps.
I do this despite getting regular “exercise.” Why? Because my health depends on it and so does yours: In 2016 the American Heart Association published a research-based advisory warning that even vigorous exercise doesn’t seem to erase the damage that multiple hours of sitting does—namely increasing your risk of heart disease and diabetes.
There’s also evidence that how active you are over the course of a day can impact your weight. On average obese people sit for two and a half hours more each day than lean people and lean people stand and walk an average of more than two additional hours a day than obese people, according to research by James A. Levine, MD, PhD, a professor of medicine at Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, Arizona.
That’s why I challenge myself, my clients, and now all of you to get at least 10,000 steps a day. That number may seem arbitrary, but 10,000 steps roughly equates to 5 miles, which (when it includes 30 minutes at a moderate intensity) satisfies CDC guidelines of at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week.
It may also feel high. If you’re like the average American, you’re currently only walking about half as much. But that’s ok. It just means you’re going to have to consciously build more movement into your day.
How to Sneak More Steps Into Your Day
The key is to make your step count a byproduct of your lifestyle rather than a goal outside of your day-to-day activity. Here are some of my recommendations for making small changes that add up to major mileage.
1. Nix the at-home coffee machine and walk to get your morning coffee instead.
2. If you drive into work, park your car a little further away from the entrance. If you take public transportation, get off the bus or subway one stop earlier and walk the extra block.
3. Go on a post-lunch walk, even if it’s just around the block. Not only will those extra 400 to 500 steps add a hefty amount towards your daily goal, they’ll also help you catch some vitamin D, which has been shown to increase serotonin, stave off seasonal affective disorder, and even help lower blood pressure.
4. If you have access to a treadmill or health club, watch your favorite show or sporting event as you walk. Even if you end up going at a slower speed, put the importance of achieving a maintainable pace at the forefront.
5. Don’t use weekends as an excuse to laze around. Work to consciously incorporate more steps into your day without having to completely deviate from your plans. Meeting friends for lunch? Rather than driving, walk to your meet-up spot.
Keep the Momentum Going
Keep in mind, taking 10,000 steps is the least you should do. To avoid getting complacent, I recommend gradually increasing your daily step goal by about 500 steps every other week until you’re achieving around 14,000 steps a day. Here’s how to change your step goal in the app.
Opting into Reminders to Move can also help. When turning on this function you can customize which hours of the day you want to aim to get 250 steps—or roughly two to three minutes of walking, which has been shown to help offset the negative effects of sitting. Your device will buzz 10 minutes before the hour if you have yet to hit your goal.
Absolutely no time to move? Try one of these 13 ways to sneak fitness into your day. Or pick up my book, 5 Pounds: The Breakthrough 5-Day Plan to Jump-Start Rapid Weight Loss (And Never Gain it Back!, for more ideas.
Next, discover Three Ways Sleep Deprivation Makes You Fat—Plus 5 Ways to Get More Shuteye. It’s the fourth part of the My 5 Plan.
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.