How to walk your 10,000 steps a day

If you use a FitBit, UP by Jawbone, or plain old pedometer, then you’ve almost certainly made a minimum of 10,000 steps a day your goal. But if you work in an office or spend most of your day sitting in front of a laptop, then you may not get your activity in until you get to the gym later. Even then, an hour workout at the gym won’t net you your 10K. You’re more likely to accumulate 50K or 60K, and that’s if you’re taking a steps-laden cardio-heavy class like ZUMBA.

So you tell yourself, “I’m going to take breaks during the day.” You set your timer to get up from your desk for a 10-minute walk once an hour, but you’re so seeped in your work and in the zonethat the alarm dings and you bypass it.

Although you know how important it is to get up, stretch and go for that walk, you can’t bring yourself to do it.

Before you know it, work day’s done and you’ve only taken two 10-minute walking breaks (avg. 2400 steps) when your goal was 6 breaks.

I know firsthand how challenging it can be to take those much-needed breaks. Sometimes getting in those 10,000 steps seems to be virtually impossible, especially when you’ve got a mountain of work before you.

I’ve also had a chiropractor come into my former office environment sharing with us the risk for spinal complications and carpel tunnel by staying in that one seated position for way too long. She recommended we get up once every 30 minutes to stretch or take a break, even if it was for just a couple minutes.

So I thought up a simple system (designed to spread your steps out over the course of the day) that takes the thinking out of this whole steps-and-stretch thing. When I follow it, I feel fulfilled and energized.

***Caveat: You won’t accumulate all 10,000 steps from just doing this system so NOPE, this does not replace your 60-minute hike, jog, gym or dance class. This simple approach is intended for you to get about HALF your steps in. I thought this up because I found that even after teaching the most energetic ZUMBA classes, I would get only 70% of my steps in for the day. And if I wasn’t spending much of my day walking and the rest of the time at a desk, then I had to make the concerted effort to get in the rest of those steps.

Anyway, try this and let me know how it goes!

Here’s the basic concept, or what I call the 30–5–45 Rule:
- Stand up and stretch after 30 min.
- Go for a 5 min. walk every 45 minutes.

How It Works:

  1. Set your desktop or laptop timer (e.g. www.online-stopwatch.com) for 30 minutes.
  2. Do your desk or sedentary work.
  3. Alarm dings after 30 min. That’s your get-up-and-stretch break. Just stand up and pace your room and do light stretches for a few seconds.
  4. Set the timer for another 15 minutes, which will take you to the 45-minute mark. When the alarm dings, you leave your workspace and walk around, preferably outdoors, for 5 minutes.
  5. Repeat 8 times, or for however long you’ll be working sedentarily.

Why It Works:

  • My average walking speed at a moderate pace (between sauntering and speed walking) covers about 120 steps a minute. That means I’m covering about 600 steps during each 5-minute walking break. Do this for 8 times and you’re at 4800 steps. Not bad.
  • After that chiropractor visited us at the former workplace, I made moving every 30 minutes a goal, but I quickly found myself not digging the disruption of my workflow to be getting up to walk every 30 minutes. What assuaged my psyche and justified the 5-minute walk was getting up every 45 minutes. That extra 15 minutes flipped the switch and made the breaks more manageable on my workload and my mind. Also, setting the 30 min. stretch break fulfilled that desire to follow the healthy recommendation to get up and stretch while also knowing I didn’t have to travel far.
  • I’m an advocate of walking in fresh air (or as fresh as you can get if you work in a place like L.A. or NY). Here’s the very cool thing about this. The project you couldn’t pry yourself away from just may be subject to new solutions and ideas as a result of taking that walk. I actually got the idea to write this blog post during my 5-minute walk while working on my laptop one day.

Here’s a tip to help you follow this: After the 30 min. alarm, mentally prep yourself to realize that 15 minutes from now you will get up and go for that walk.

Simple huh?

OK. Let’s say you’re thinking, “This sounds great Val. But, eh. I don’t know. I don’t think I’ll have the time to really do all this.”

What’s that about? So here’s the deal. I’m a big fan of aligning your mindset with your new behaviors designed to evoke an important change you want to experience. But how many times have you taken on some new resolution or scheme without doing that mindset work?

I’ve got something for that too. I ran a 30-min tele-class where I outlined 3 Steps to Create More Time Than You Think You Have.

Access the 30-minute recording for free right here.

When your mind, spirit, and actions are all aligned, watch how unstoppable you become!

P.S. While writing this entry, I came across a very cool BBC article The slow death of purposeless walking. It has a different take on walking and touches on the connection between walking, thinking, and quality of life. I enjoyed it and got something valuable from reading. Hope you do too.

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