How to Get More Steps

A few tweaks can help you hit the magic number of 10,000 each day

When David Sabgir, MD, started his practice as a cardiologist 11 years ago, he found he was having the same frustrating conversation with his patients about the need to get more activity.

“I talked about it until I was blue in the face,” says Sabgir, a fellow of the American College of Cardiology.

Then, wearable activity trackers exploded onto the market. “I find them to be an absolutely essential piece in this whole movement,” he says. “If you’re wearing a pedometer or wearable, you get credit for it.”

Wearable device users want to earn that satisfying chirp, vibration or blink at the end of the day, signifying they’ve reached their target activity level, which is often 10,000 steps. That’s long been the standard, and although the number is somewhat arbitrary—based more on marketing than science—doctors think it’s a good goal.

Sabgir offers tips for reaching that 10,000-step threshold.

Take Baby Steps
A lot of people are just trying to get off the couch, not run a marathon. Sabgir tells patients to start small: Today, take a walk to the mailbox. Tomorrow, walk to the neighbor’s house. The next day, try for the end of the block. “If you can get from the couch to 15 minutes a week, that’s huge health-wise,” he says.

Have a Destination
Sure, you could go on an aimless stroll around the neighborhood, but isn’t having a place to go more satisfying? If you need to pick up something at the pharmacy, walk there instead of hopping in the car. Same with getting coffee, dropping off library books or running other errands. Walking somewhere with purpose will make the activity seem less like a chore and more like a routine.

Go Farther
People who commute via public transit get in at least four walks a day to and from the train or bus. Sabgir recommends extending those walks by going to the next stop up on the subway, or getting off one stop early. A few more minutes on your feet, rather than on a crowded train, can help both fitness and frustration levels. For those who drive to work, the old trick of parking in the farthest spot—or even down the street—ensures you get steps in before settling down to work.

Start Early
“If you can get a walk in early in the morning, that really helps,” Sabgir says. Logging 2,000 or 3,000 steps before the day really gets going can make hitting your target seem more attainable. “All day, you’re like, ‘I’m almost there,’” Sabgir says.

Find Your Crew
When Sabgir was trying to persuade patients to exercise, he realized it might be easier if he gave them a time and a place to do it. So in 2005, he started a weekly group walk in his hometown of Columbus, Ohio, dubbed “Walk with a Doc.” The campaign has since spread to more than 200 sites across the country. Find one of those groups near you, or arrange a weekly walk with friends. It’s hard to skip out when you have plans with others.

Reward Yourself
Did you meet your steps goal for the day or week? Pat yourself on the back with a fancy coffee, a new piece of clothing or some other treat. Prefer not to buy something? Carve out time for yourself to take a bubble bath or watch your favorite show. You could even give yourself permission to skip a chore, like dusting the living room.

 

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