Walking 10,000 Steps A Day Using 9 Simple Lifestyle Hacks

After much research, I have solved the mystery surrounding why I am out of shape. I don’t move enough. Shocking, isn’t it? Getting to this simple conclusion took a little help from a basic workout tool, and the recognition of my lazy habits. My new goal is to start walking 10,000 steps a day, and here’s how I plan to get there.

Armed with a new pedometer, I began taking little steps each day to increase my physical activity. Sure, I hit the gym a few days a week, but I’m only there an hour. The other 23 hours were filled with inactivity. The last thing I wanted to do was implement a formal walking program – sorry, but it’s boring to me. The following moves helped me reach my goal to walk 10,000 steps a day consistently, with minimal interference with my regular routine.

1. Get a pedometer. Unless you are really good at counting, you will probably want to pick up a quality pedometer to measure your steps. Some pedometers also monitor distances, and even heart rate, calories burned, etc. For this exercise I am most concerned with steps, so any decent pedometer will do. And since I’m a goal-oriented person, I love the challenge of trying to sneak in a few more steps than the day before.

2. If you have a desk job, stand up and walk every hour. I spend a lot of time in front of a computer – somewhere in the neighborhood of 14 hours a day. That’s rough on the eyeballs, and even rougher on my gut. Instead of sitting for three hour marathons writing an article, I have started forcing myself to get up and walk for a few minutes. Sometimes I just wander around the office, and when the weather is nice, I stroll outside to my truck and back. On the occasion someone stops to ask what I am doing, I simply tell them I am taking a “non-smoke” break.

3. Park farther away from entrances. We’ve heard this one over and over again, but according to my handy pedometer it really does work. I began parking at the far corner of parking lots and counting the number of steps to where I would normally park (and then double that number for the return trip). It wasn’t uncommon to earn an extra 200 steps from that move alone.

4. Put down the phone, cancel that email, and walk. Throughout the day I often call or email coworkers, even if they sit just a few steps away. Of course, it’s better to put some things in writing, but many things can be handled by a quick conversation.

5. Walk or jog in place during your favorite television show. In the evenings, after dinner and when I generally start to feel like a sloth, it’s hard not to just kick back and watch a couple hours of television, or surf the web. I enjoy only a couple television shows, but when they are on, I want to watch them because they represent my three or four hours during the week of mindless entertainment. So, I started standing during the program and walking in place, pacing the living room, and doing jumping jacks. If this disrupts your viewing pleasure, only do it during commercial breaks. Anything is better than just sitting there doing nothing for hours on end.

6. Take the stairs. Elevators and escalators were fun when we were kids, but taking the stairs adds steps to your daily total, and it is a great calorie burner.

7. Pacing. Spend a lot of your day standing around waiting? For the bus, the subway, a ride home, on hold on the phone? Instead of sitting or simply standing still, try pacing back and forth. This single act could add a few hundred steps to your day.

8. Take the dog for a walk. You and man’s best friend will benefit from a quick stroll around the block. This is something I need to do more often. Our dog loves to be walked, but when it’s cold and getting dark at the end of a long day, it sure is hard to go for the leash and head outside.

9. Hit the mall. Speaking of cold weather, did you know most malls open an hour or so early for walkers? And even if the stores are open, you can leave your cash and credit cards at home and simply stroll around the mall in a temperature-controlled, relatively safe environment. As long as you plan your route away from the food court, you’ll be fine.

After I bought my pedometer, I went about my normal routine for a couple days to get a baseline for my daily steps. Without additional exercise or behavior modifications I was walking around 3,300 steps a day. That’s a fairly low number considering 10,000 steps is roughly the equivalent of 30 minutes of moderate exercise.

On days I hit the gym that number increased to 6,000 steps thanks to a little time in the cardio area – still some 4,000 steps short of my goal. It was obvious I couldn’t make up all those steps from the gym alone, so I began implementing the steps above. Since the first of the year, simply by incorporating these simple tweaks, I’m averaging about 10,300 steps. I’d like to improve to 15,000 or so by the end of January. In that same time I’ve managed to drop seven pounds without much change to my diet (although admittedly, I am trying to eat less these days).

What other tips can you share to help walkers get a few extra steps each day?


  1. While your walking or exercising of any sort, turn on some good music that uplifts your mood. It will help you walk a little faster and possibly farther and harder. I ride a bike at the gym and my music saves me from the boredom and actually pushes harder.

  2. The music is key. If you have an iPod, put together a mix with music that absolutely forces you to move. (Old-school Public Enemy always does it for me, but to each his/her own.) It’s like having a trainer right with you.

  3. Agreed on the music. And you know what I’ve found that helps? After lunch at work, go for a walk around the block. It’ll help you keep from feeling that post-meal blah feeling.

  4. Buying a treadmill was one of the best purchases I’ve made in some time. I have it positioned in front of the garage workbench, so I place a laptop there and watch business news, listen to internet radio (Slacker.com), or maybe even YouTube music videos. Works well since keeping my mind busy is the #1 challenge!

  5. I like tip 5, but it would be hard for me to motivate myself to do this on my own. I have Wii Fit, and it has a few (admittedly limited) exercises built in that you can do while you switch over and watch TV. I have dual monitors for my computer/TV, so I watch my favorite shows and play Wii Fit at the same time. I also have an exercise ball and some dumbbells by the TV. It’s not a replacement for a nice gym workout, but it’s keeps me off the couch.

  6. My husband and I have just started to cut our food budget by eating at home more often. If that doesn’t lead to weight loss by itself, I am buying a pedometer. Thanks for the post!

  7. Take the parking farther away idea and apply it to all car related trips. I park as far as possible from the door at the grocery store, drugstore, mall etc. With the grocery store, in addition to the walk to the store and back, you’ll have to walk at least part way back again to return your cart after unloading. At work, in addition to using the stairs rather than the elevator, use the washroom and microwave on another floor. Adding a few extra steps or stairs whenever possible adds up over a day.
    I can’t imagine pacing or doing jumping jacks during a TV show (this might work if you are watching alone), but I do generally multi-task so my mindless TV time is somewhat productive. While watching I iron, do dishes, prepare lunches, fold laundry, mend clothing, or even polish silver. Basically anything that can be done without your full attention, or which you find boring is a good candidate.

  8. @Crysta: The pedometer is not an absolutely necessity, of course, but it helps with motivation if you are a goal-oriented person, like me. I love seeing the numbers throughout the day and looking for extra ways to move. Without seeing the numbers, and making sort of a game out of it, I would likely move much less.

  9. As it’s winter in the northern plains, I’ve got a treadmill and exercise bike in the basement, and I’ve set up an old Zenith TV with a cheap DVD player. One of the most effective shows for me to watch on DVD is Alias – lots of suspense keeps me engaged and moving.

    I’ve ordered a Fitbit, which will supposedly ship at the end of the month. I’m curious to see how I can use that to bolster my fitness activities.

  10. See I used to get up from my desk every hour and walk a quick lap around our office. Then people started complaining that I was walking around to much. I still did it though. But now I work from home so no one to complain about.

  11. That is awesome about the 10,300 steps.

    I don’t count my steps but I do keep active as much as possible these days and also have visitors here so we are walking everywhere…. Luckily we only live 30mins walk from the Nile so have been starting our days with a stroll down there and then walking off to wherever else we are going.

  12. Love the Pedometer idea. I also take several walks a day. I have a wireless headset for my desk phone, so when I get a call, I get up and move around while I’m talking. If I get a cell phone call that might take a while, I take it outside and walk.

  13. I walk to and from work. It takes about half an hour each day. My gas emissions are practically nil…

  14. Great post! I too have decided to walk more – I’m afraid my sedentary lifestyle is leading to serious health problems down the road. I have worn a pedometer and my daily steps are very much comparable to yours (~3000 or so). I appreciate the tips on how to add steps into my day. Best of luck to you!

  15. Number 6 is something that so many people don’t do! I work in an office on the second floor and every other employee takes the elevator instead of walking down one flight of stairs. I also notice this at airports as people almost always take the escalator instead of walking up or down a few flights of stairs.

  16. Great idea using the pedometer to help motivate you. I can see how striving to break your record can keep motivated and looking to take those few extra steps. I think I’m going to pick one up.

  17. I absolutely love my pedometer. My baseline was 4,000 steps two year ago when I first brought my pedometer. Two battery change later and my average is usually 13,000. Once in a while I would get 15,000 steps. I check it a few times a day to make sure that I am hitting my target steps.

  18. @asithi: That’s awesome! Any special tips for hitting that 13k per day average? I’m finding it very difficult to work in 10k in an office environment.

  19. Great idea using the pedometer to help motivate you. I can see how striving to break your record can keep motivated and looking to take those few extra steps. I think I’m going to pick one up.

  20. Great article. I’ve used a pedometer for a last six months, and it’s a great tool.

    One minor quibble: 10,000 steps is a LOT more than 30 minutes of exercise. When I walk four miles, it takes me about an hour and only logs about 8,000 steps. And that’s a fairly brisk pace for walking.

  21. @Susan – I believe the 30 minutes exercise figure was for the 3,300 current steps, not the 10,000 step target?

    Anyway, just wanted to add that new research I was reading suggests sitting in one spot massively increases the risk of heart attacks. Doh, you may say, but this isn’t just everyday lethargy/muscle loss etc – it’s specifically sitting still for hours on end.

    So getting up and moving for five minutes every hour might save your life, as well as lose you weight!

  22. Just came across this web site. Liked the response to what was written (kept on the subject at hand).

    BUT, best of all, I know have some motivation to walk more than I have. AND with a pedometer.

    I know this post sounds weak but you have to understand that I have had a hearat attack, am overweight and having a tough time getting healthy again.

  23. FYI
    It takes approximately 80 to 90 min of walking at a good pace (3.5 miles ph) to get your 10,000 steps in.

  24. Walking during lunch breaks is another great strategy – you’ll eat less, boost your energy level, and reduce the burden of finding free time to exercise. If you can find a co-worker that’ll join in, you’ll find additional motivation and the walk will fly by as you enjoy the conversation and companionship. Even if you only utilize half of an hour-long lunch, it’ll be time well spent!