Whether you’re aiming for 4000 steps or 15 000; walking can get boring fast.
I had that problem. After partaking in a challenge for three months where I was walking 15 000 steps a day on average, I was completely done with it after the challenge ended. I lowered my goal to 10 000 and I was still a struggle.
So I went looking for ways to make my daily steps more enjoyable, so my step goal gives me energy again, instead of it being this extra chore. This is how I did it.
- Why your step goal is so important
- How many steps do you need to take?
- How to get your daily steps in
- How to make your steps more enjoyable
Why your step goal is so important
We all know why daily activity is so important. It decreases your chance of cardiovascular diseases and can improve your blood pressure. Being active also helps increase happy hormones like serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins, which all help with your well-being, happiness, and against depressed feelings and stress.
Besides that, walking is a good way to get out in the daylight and get some fresh air. You also produce more vitamin D if you’re walking in the daylight.
But even though we know all this, many of us don’t move enough.
Data from the 2018 National Health Interview Survey shows that only 53% of American adults met the physical activity guidelines for aerobic activity and only 23.2% for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercises. The Health Survey for England in 2016 shows that 67% of men and 55% of women aged 16 and over do at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. Only 34% of men and 24% of women do muscle-strengthening activities at least twice a week.
Physical activity guidelines from the WHO for adults aged 18 to 64 are (October 2022):
– should do at least 150–300 minutes of moderate-intensity* aerobic physical activity;
– or at least 75–150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity; or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity throughout the week
– should also do muscle-strengthening activities at moderate or greater intensity that involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week, as these provide additional health benefits.
– may increase moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity to more than 300 minutes; or do more than 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity; or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity throughout the week for additional health benefits.
– should limit the amount of time spent being sedentary. Replacing sedentary time with physical activity of any intensity (including light intensity) provides health benefits, and
– to help reduce the detrimental effects of high levels of sedentary behavior on health, all adults and older adults should aim to do more than the recommended levels of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity
*moderate intensity means you can just hold a conversation while being active.
How many steps do you need to take?
It’s often said that you need to take 10 000 steps a day. While it’s a good goal and nice-looking number, it’s actually a marketing strategy from Japan to sell more step counters and research has still not agreed on the perfect step goal.
Start by measuring your daily steps. Most phones have a health app installed that will count for you, so make sure to put your phone in your pocket. When you have that number (it’s about 2500 steps for most people, without exercise), you can set yourself a goal.
If you want to become more active, set your goal a bit higher than your current. If you’re happy with your activity, make sure to take a similar amount of steps every day. Be realistic and only up your goal with about 1000 steps each time, instead of doubling your goal right away.
A 2011 research recommends working towards a step goal that’s about 3000 steps above your daily step amount. This comes down to about 30 minutes of walking a day, which is what physical activity guidelines recommend.
Read my tips to determine your ideal step goal here.
How to get your daily steps in
When you decide to walk more, whether that’s 10 000 steps or 3000, you need to get them from somewhere.
You can choose to take a walk during your lunch break or go for a walk after dinner, but many people won’t want to do that.
The best way to incorporate more steps is by building them into your daily routines. “NEATUP24/7,” as personal trainer Diren Kartal says. NEAT, Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, are the calories you burn with your daily activity outside of exercise. This is a much bigger part of your daily calories burned than working out, and so keeping your NEAT up (24/7) is much better for you than working out twice a week.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator
- Park farther away
- Get out of the train, bus, tram a stop early
- Walk to your appointments
- Get your tea and coffee yourself instead of letting your co-workers walk
These are small adjustments in your daily life, but with significant results.
For example, I walk to my gym. On gym days, I get to 10 000 steps without any extra effort. It only takes me 5 minutes longer than taking public transport and 15 minutes than when I’d take a car. But it’s healthier, free, and I’m not bound to bus schedules and parking spots. I also often pace in between sets, which gets me up to an extra 1000 steps per training.
How to make your steps more enjoyable
Ok, so you’re going for a walk to get your steps up! This is how to make your daily steps more enjoyable.
1. (Video)call friends
VMany of my friends live far away and I don’t see them often. Calling them during my walk means I can give them all my attention without feeling like I should be doing something more productive.
2. Listen to a podcast
Learn something new while out for your walk! Or listen to a true crime or comedy podcast for your amusement. Have you tried the Potterless podcast?
3. Listen (or read) a book
Audiobooks are the perfect solution for reading while being able to watch your surroundings. I don’t love them, but I have walked circles in my local park for 1,5 hr while reading a book on my e-reader before. It was quiet and there were no crossroads, but I’ve done it in Amsterdam’s Vondelpark as well… Wouldn’t recommend it though, for safety.
4. Challenge yourself (and others)
There are many groups and challenges to join online, but you can also set up a challenge with friends and family. Do it for charity, find a challenge on Strava, or set up a challenge on Fitbit.
5. Go into nature
Your daily route around your neighborhood will get boring. There comes a time when you can dream the houses lining your route! So I like to switch it up and go into natural areas. Walk, cycle, or drive to a natural park and go for a walk there. Many places have marked walking routes at different lengths.
6. Combine your steps with another fun activity
You may not love walking, but shopping will get your steps up in no time! Or what about wandering around at a carnival, fair, or festival, or joining a sightseeing walking tour?
7. Take the long way around
I can get to my local grocery store in 2000 steps. Or, I can go the long way around with 8000 steps. This doesn’t make it more enjoyable, but it does make it easier to get to my steps! I combine this with video calls or listening to a podcast. It ensures a little bit of me-time while checking off errands.
8. Try geocaching
Ever heard of it? Geocaching is a kind of treasure hunting. You can find geocaches through the website or app and you follow tips and solve riddles to find the cache. Some geocaches will include a full route to find the final cache, but you can also create your own route along geocaches. I once did four of five caches in Antwerp, walking 9 km!
Don’t want to go outside to get your steps? Stay in, turn up the volume on a danceable playlist, and go crazy. Dancing at home will get you just as many steps as dancing in a bar or at a festival! It also lowers stress and raises levels of happy hormones like serotonin and dopamine.
10. Go explore
Whether you’re in a new place or at home, you probably haven’t seen everything. If you love to travel, you know how easy it is to walk a lot in cities like Rome, London, and Paris. Walk that cute street here, take a look at that impressive building there… There are lots of walking routes in places all around the world, both in cities, and natural areas!