15 Sneaky Ways You Can Walk More Steps Per Day
The more steps you take, the better. Here are some creative ways to bump up your step count throughout the day.
Step it up
Walking is the simplest exercise to do and one of the easiest ways to improve your health. Lower weight, higher metabolism, a happier mood, more creativity, better sleep—the list of mental and physical health benefits of walking is long. But knowing you should walk more is one thing; doing it is another thing entirely. Fortunately getting more steps in your day doesn't have to be hard or boring. Try these creative and easy ideas from experts to walk more today.
Game-ify it with an app
Counting your steps is one of the most boring things you can do but using an app to track steps, distance, calories burned, or time suddenly turns it into a game, says Ka Hei Karen Lau, a registered dietitian at Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston. You can use the simple pedometer on your phone, a tracking app, like Map My Run or My Fitness Pal, or truly turn it into a game with the Zombies, Run! app, which will inspire you to walk faster with a spine-tingling story and sound effects.
Get a dog
No one is more motivated to get in a good walk than a dog—and who can resist those big puppy eyes as they stare longingly at you and then the door? Dog owners walked more and had more physical activity overall than non-dog owners, and were 54 percent more likely to get the recommended level of physical activity, according to a study published in the Human Kinetics Journal. No pet of your own? Volunteer to play with and walk the pups at your local shelter—you’ll get more steps in and make a lonely animal's day. (If that's not enough motivation, here are 15 benefits of a 15-minute walk.)
Play with your kids
Children are bundles of energy and never struggle to get in plenty of steps during the day. Why? Because they make it fun—and you can too, says Kelly Morgan, PhD, a certified health coach and personal trainer. "You basically gave birth to a personal trainer," she jokes. "Playing tag or kickball, chasing after rambunctious toddlers, playing on the playground, and taking stroller walks are fun ways to bond and get some more walking in."
Set an alarm on your phone
Don't get caught up in all-or-nothing thinking, even quick five-minute walks around your home can add up if you do it regularly, says Erin Paruszewski, a fitness expert and founder of Alkalign fitness studios. “Add in walks throughout your day by setting an alarm on your phone or watch that reminds you to take a lap at least once per hour,” she says.
Invite a friend
One of the best ways to motivate yourself to walk more is to do it with your best friend, partner or someone else you care about, Dr. Morgan says. You will walk more but you'll barely notice the extra steps since you're enjoying catching up. You could also catch up with friends or family while walking and talking on the phone. Or schedule a walking meeting with a coworker. This is one of the things what happy, healthy people do on their lunch breaks.
There's just something about being outside in nature that inspires you to keep walking, Lau says. Head to a local park, a nearby national park, or a community botanical garden to get your green fix. And good news: The vast majority of Americans already live within walking distance of some type of park, according to the National Recreation and Park Association. So get out there and explore your neighborhood.
Binge watch while you walk
If you prefer to stay indoors, you can still motivate yourself to walk more by propping up your tablet or phone on the treadmill and use it to watch your favorite show, Dr. Morgan says. "Make a rule that you will only watch that show while you are walking and you'll never want to skip your walk," she says. Did you know that being able to walk and talk is one of the 9 signs you may be more fit than you think?
Drink more water
If you drink more water you'll quickly discover that you need more bathroom trips—and nothing is more motivating to get up and get moving than a full bladder, says Reggie Chambers, a personal trainer, and fitness specialist in New York City. When it comes to increasing your steps, every little bit helps, right. To get some extra walking in your bathroom break, purposefully choose a restroom on a different floor, he says.
Send a text—in person
Texting, email, and voice mail are great time savers but if the person you'd like to talk to is nearby, use the opportunity to actually walk over and have a face-to-face conversation, Chambers says. You’ll get a change of scenery, a little exercise, and you may even improve your relationships, he adds.
Walk while you talk on the phone
They don't call it a "mobile" phone for nothing. Pacing around while you talk on the phone is a great way to walk more without taking time out of your busy day, Paruszewski says. Whether you're on a conference call or on hold with a pharmacy, you'll rack up more steps—and burn more calories—in no time. Not only will you burn more calories but you'll feel happier and more creative after, just a few of the major health benefits of walking.
Change your parking spot
Parking further away from the store guarantees you take more steps per day, and you won’t have to go through the headache of circling the parking lot for the closest spot only to have someone else swoop in and steal it, Paruszewski says. “Park as far away as you can at the gym, mall, grocery store or coffee shop and get in some extra steps in your day,” she says. “Plus, it’s a lot more enjoyable than road rage.”
Get up at work
Turn one-on-one discussions or brainstorming sessions into walking meetings, and you'll get those creative juices flowing, Dr. Morgan says. That's not just an idiom. A report published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology by Stanford University researchers found that walking inside or outside boosts creativity. They measured creativity in terms of divergent thinking, or coming up with many possible solutions to an issue. Participants were asked to think of alternative uses for a given object while walking on a treadmill indoors, sitting inside, walking outdoors, or being pushed in a wheelchair outside. Creative output increased by an average of 60 percent when participants were brainstorming while walking.
Always take the stairs
See that elevator? It doesn't exist. Same with the escalator. Now, there are only stairs. If you want steps, you need to take the stairs, Paruszewski says. Finding these little moments in your day where you can walk is the key to increasing your exercise without breaking a sweat, she says.
Do yard work
You can't garden without walking so break out the gloves and shears, Lau says. You can do walk up and down rows while you plant, take a stroll through your yard and pick weeds, walk through your flower beds to find the freshest blooms, and if you really want a workout, use a wheelbarrow to truckloads of dirt or manure to your yard. This is just one of the surprising health benefits of gardening.
Take a full lunch break
Working through lunch has become a common workplace practice, but use your full lunch break so you not only have time to eat a healthy meal but you can take a quick walk afterwards, Dr. Morgan says.
- Journal of Human Kinetics: “Dog Ownership and Health-Related Physical Activity Among Japanese Adults”
- Kelly Morgan, PhD, a certified health coach and personal trainer
- Erin Paruszewski, a fitness expert and founder of Alkalign fitness studios
- Ka Hei Karen Lau, RD, CDN, a registered dietitian at Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston
- Reggie Chambers, a personal trainer and fitness specialist in NYC
- Journal of Experimental Psychology: “Give Your Ideas Some Legs: The Positive Effect of Walking on Creative Thinking”
- National Recreation and Park Association: “Americans’ Broad-Based Support for Local Recreation and Park Services: Results From a Nationwide Study”