Olga Hays is an American Council on Exercise-certified wellness promotion specialist at Sharp HealthCare. She says 10,000 steps is a great goal, but it’s OK to take fitness at your own pace.
Start small, and work your way up
“People often hear that the gold standard for being active is walking an average of 10,000 steps a day, the rough equivalent of walking 5 miles. However, this long-established walking standard can be pretty intimidating for many, including older adults, those who are new to fitness or people recovering from an injury,” she says.
If you find yourself falling short of 10,000 daily steps, there are some simple ways you can stay active without stressing. First, Hays recommends starting small, especially if you are not used to being physically active.
“The good news is, you don't have to jump feet first into the 10,000 steps a day goal. Someone who is just starting out can set a lower step goal and still enjoy the health benefits of walking,” she says.
Establish a baseline, based on your daily activity
When setting a target, it’s important to consider your needs and fitness level. Then, establish a baseline or a goal you know you can definitely reach, and move up from there.
“We naturally accumulate 4,000 to 5,000 steps per day through our usual activities, such as working, walking from the parking lot and moving around during the day,” says Hays.
She recommends wearing a pedometer or using a health app for a week to determine how many steps you take on average each day. Then aim to add 1,000 extra steps every two weeks, slowly working toward the goal of 10,000 steps.
Simple ways to up your step game
Hitting a new step goal can be as simple as:
- Adding a 10-minute walk at lunch
- Parking farther away from your destination
- Taking the stairs instead of the elevator
- Using a bathroom on a different floor
While you may not notice a difference in your health right away, Hays points out that increasing your steps can have real benefits on your long-term health.
“From helping us de-stress, to lowering blood pressure and reducing risk of many chronic diseases, walking is one of the best and easiest things we can do for our well-being,” she says.
Once your personal goal is set, remember it’s more achievable than you may realize.
“We don’t always need to walk intentionally. All walking counts, and every bit of movement brings you closer to your goal,” says Hays.