The average American takes a mere 3,000-4,000 steps per day. That’s way less than the goal our FitBits are setting for us! I know the whole 10,000 steps per day thing has been debunked, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important to try to get more steps in on a regular basis.
When you increase your step count, you increase your NEAT (short for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis). This term refers to all the non-exercise activities (walking, fidgeting, cleaning, cooking, etc.) you do throughout the day.
Do you know how many steps you take in a day? Are you unsure of why you should be trying to take more steps and increase your NEAT?
Read on to learn more about the benefits of increasing your daily step count. I’ll also share some of my favorite hacks for getting more steps in without really trying!
Why Should You Get More Steps In?
There are lots of reasons to work on increasing the number of steps you take per day, including the following five:
1. Burn More Calories
Walking more throughout the day is an easy way to burn some extra calories without having to do a dedicated workout. Sure, the calorie burn from walking isn’t enormous, but it’s better than the calorie burn you’d experience if you were just sitting on the couch.
2. Easy Way to Start Exercising
I love walking because it’s a low-impact way to increase your daily activity. If you have joint pain or mobility issues, walking allows you to burn some extra calories without putting too much strain on your body (of course, I also recommend getting to the bottom of your pain or mobility issues and working to correct them, but that’s another topic for another day).
Walking’s also free to do. You don’t have to invest in a gym membership or any fancy equipment. All you need is a pair of shoes.
3. Improve Heart Health
People who walk on a regular basis are less likely to struggle with cardiovascular issues, such as heart attacks, strokes, and high blood pressure. Some studies have shown that it can reduce your risk by up to 31 percent!
These kinds of health issues are largely associated with poor lifestyle choices. Even if you feel fine now, getting more steps in is a simple lifestyle change you can make that could yield significant benefits for you later on in life.
4. Improve Overall Health
Taking more steps each day can improve other aspects of your health, too. It can help you to balance your blood sugar, for example, and reduce your risk of developing issues like insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes. This is especially true when you take a walk after eating (post-prandial walk).
5. Get Better Sleep
Do you have a hard time falling asleep at night? If you’re not sleeping well, all aspects of your health suffer. It can be harder to lose weight, it’s harder to recover from your workouts, you won’t perform as well at work or school, etc.
Walking more throughout the day can help to reduce your stress and make it easier for you to fall asleep when nighttime rolls around. The results of one study even showed that increasing your steps by 2,000 (that works out to about 20 minutes of walking) could improve sleep quality in a significant way.
How to Get More Steps In
Okay, you can see why taking more steps each day is good for your physical and mental health. How do you actually take more steps, though?
Here are some of my favorite ways to squeeze in more steps throughout the day:
Park Farther Away
This one always shows up on lists of ways to get more steps in. There’s a good reason, though — because it works!
I always try to park at the back of the parking lot when I’m going to the store or the gym (let’s face it, those are pretty much the only two places I go). It’s an easy way for me to take more steps, and I don’t have to worry about maneuvering my way through a crowded parking lot.
I’ve found that I save time when I do this, too. I get to park and head into the store right away; I don’t have to drive around in circles wasting time (and gas) looking for the closest parking space.
Do a Lap Every Hour
I get that this one might not be feasible for everyone. I like to take a short break (about 5-10 minutes) every hour to do some laps around my house. Since I work from home, it’s easy for me to take a break and get some steps in. It also gives me a chance to rest my eyes after staring at the computer screen and shake out my legs.
Taking 5-10 minutes away from your desk each hour might not work at your job. Could you stand up and take a 2-minute lap around the office, though? After all, walking just two minutes every hour can reduce your risk of death by 33 percent. That’s a pretty low bar to try and reach, isn’t it?
Walk Instead of Drive
I have a personal rule that I don’t drive to places that I could reach on foot.
For example, I won’t drive down to the community mailbox in my apartment complex; I always walk. When I lived up the road from my favorite coffee shop, I always walked to it instead of driving when I wanted to get a cup of coffee, too.
Having these rules in place helps me fit in more steps, and it really doesn’t take that much more time to walk to these places than it does to drive.
Pace While Talking on the Phone
Whenever I’m talking on the phone to someone, I try to walk while I’m doing it. I can easily fit in an extra 1,000-plus steps while talking to my mom on the phone, and I’ve also found that it’s easier for me to stay engaged in the conversation when I’m walking and talking at the same time.
Take the Stairs
If you live or work in a building that has an elevator, try to take the stairs whenever you can. You can squeeze in some extra steps, and you get to avoid the awkwardness of trying not to accidentally make eye contact with anyone in the elevator.
This same rule applies to escalators in stores or the moving sidewalk at airports, too. Skip them when you can and take the stairs or walk in the middle aisle. You’ll get where you want to be faster, and it’s better for your health.
Add a (Short) Walk to Your Workout
If you have a little extra time at the end of your workout, take a 10-15 minute walk on the treadmill before you leave. This can help you cool down and lower your heart rate after working out, and you’re already at the gym, so it’s easy to hop on the treadmill and take some more steps. I get that, sometimes, you’re in a time crunch and you can’t tack on 10-15 more minutes to your workout. If you have the time, though, why not take advantage of it?
Pair Walking with Another Activity
Finally, try pairing walking with another activity, such as listening to podcasts. I love podcasts, and walking is the perfect activity to participate in while learning something new or listening to something entertaining. If I want to listen to a podcast, I’ll try to go for a walk at the same time so I can kill two birds with one stone.
Get to Steppin’
There you have it. Some simple ways to take more steps each day, plus some extra motivation to make increasing your step count a priority.
Remember, you don’t have to double or triple your step count overnight. Even if you went from taking three or four thousand steps per day to taking five or six thousand steps, that would still be a positive change.
Try to increase your steps by one or two thousand this week, then add another one or two thousand the next week until you reach a number you’re happy with (8,000; 10,000; 20,000 — it’s up to you!).
How many steps do you take per day? What are your tips for getting more steps in?