This Bod Was Made For Walkin'

We promise we won't tell you to take the stairs instead of the elevator (although what's stopping you?). Here are some other crafty ways to infuse more walking into your day.

By Meredith Heagney
beach walking

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Whether you wear an Apple Watch, Fitbit, or you simply prefer your jewelry without data analysis, you’re probably aware of the importance of moving. We’ve been inundated with messages about how sitting is killing us (“sitting is the new smoking”) and encouraged to walk a lot more than we do — not so easy when much of life involves sitting at our desks or on carpool duty.

The good news is that getting more steps doesn’t require an uninterrupted hour to walk in the woods (though wouldn’t that be nice?) or even on a treadmill.

Small tweaks to your daily routine can push you toward the standard goal of 10,000 steps a day. Here are some ideas from David Sabgir, MD, a cardiologist in Columbus, Ohio, who founded Walk with a Doc in 2005 to encourage his patients to move more.

Start early

We know mornings are already jam-packed, but if your goal is to get 10,000 steps or more in a day, it helps to start right away. Walk the dog instead of just letting him pee in the yard while you make your coffee or take that early conference call while you’re strolling around your neighborhood (or to your office).

“If you can get a walk in early in the morning, that really helps,” Sabgir says. All of a sudden, it’s not even 9 a.m. and you have 2,000 or 3,000 steps, and that’s a psychological boost. “All day, you’re like, ‘I’m almost there.’”

Take baby steps

If you don’t move enough now, that’s OK — the goal is to walk just a bit more, not turn into a marathoner. If your phone says you usually get 5,000 steps a day, aim for 5,500 a day next week and 6,000 the week after that.

Sabgir and his patients celebrate small victories. For a sedentary person, that might mean a walk to the mailbox. Then, to the neighbor’s house; and finally, to the end of the block. “If you can get from the couch to 15 minutes (of walking) a week, that’s huge healthwise,” he says. The same principle applies to more active people who want to improve — small tweaks add up.

Put your errands to work

Need to pick up something at the pharmacy? Walk there instead of hopping in the car. Same with getting coffee, dropping off library books and running other errands.

Take a look at your daily activities and see where walking might be a feasible option. Walking somewhere with purpose feels like a double win: errands and exercise accomplished.

Use public transit

If you live somewhere with public transportation, utilize it instead of driving. After all, people who commute via public transit get in at least four walks a day to and from the train or bus (and it’s immeasurably better for the environment, too). Sabgir recommends extending those walks by going to the next stop up on the subway or getting off one stop early. A few more minutes on your feet, rather than on a crowded train, can help your mental health, too.

For those who need to drive to work, the old trick of parking in the farthest spot — or even down the street — ensures you get steps in before settling down to your tasks.

Find a crew

Join a formal walking group, such as a Walk with a Doc chapter near you, or search for local walking groups on meetup.com. You can also organize your friends for morning or evening walks or ask a co-worker to commit to walking with you at lunch. It’s hard to skip out when you have plans with others. And if you’re the competitive type, talk to human resources about starting a friendly  step competition at your office. 

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