If you’re like many Americans, you may have resolved to become a healthier version of yourself in 2020. That’s a big goal, but one that’s best broken down into smaller pieces. How about starting off by increasing your step count?
We know—you have some lofty goals for yourself this year. You may even have resolved to get more exercise. But finding success in those goals can be challenging.
In fact, some 80% of resolutions are abandoned by the time February rolls around each year. In large part, that’s because those resolutions are more “big picture” rather than actionable.
That’s why we’d like to help you set realistic goals throughout 2020. Each month, we’ll offer up a challenge for one thing you can do that month—and in the future—to step toward better health.
This month, we’re starting things out with literal steps toward good health: We challenge you to bump up your step count starting now.
Why Your Step Count Matters
When we think of exercise, walking doesn’t always come to mind. That’s because we usually think of exercise in terms of really physically active and challenging workouts.
But your workout doesn’t have to be incredibly intense to be impactful for your health. Walking is something that nearly everyone can do—and it’s an activity that you’re already doing as part of your daily activities.
You might think that walking doesn’t offer you much in the way of a workout. But that’s just not true. Walking has been shown to offer a plethora of health benefits, both physically and mentally:
- It offers a good cardiovascular workout. This one’s obvious, but walking, especially if you push the pace some or walk up an incline, can help you get your heart pumping.
- It lowers your risk of chronic health conditions. Bumping up your step count can help you minimize your risk of developing high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, inflammation, and certain types of cancer.
- It boosts your mental health. Going for a walk can get you in a better mood and make you less likely to experience mental health issues such as anxiety or depression. One study found that those who walked for 200 minutes per week had higher energy levels and better emotional health than their non-walking counterparts.
- It can boost your metabolism. Trading in sedentary behavior for an increased step count can help lower your risk of developing metabolic syndrome and make your metabolism more effective overall.
- It can help you fight stress. Moving your body more is a proven way of helping you manage the effects of stress. If you take your walk outside, you get double the impact—nature has also been shown to reduce the harmful effects of stress.
There are so many benefits to fitting more walking into your day! Ready to bump that step count up?
Looking at Step Count: How Many Steps Are Needed?
This is a bit of a trick question. There’s no single definitive answer for how many steps you need—it varies depending on your individual health and your goals.
But consider this: Someone living a sedentary lifestyle and working a desk job may only get between 1,000 and 3,000 steps each day.
If that describes you, bumping your step count up even a small amount can make a big difference!
We often read or hear that we should aim for a step count of 10,000 steps each day. If you hit 10,000 steps in a given day, you’ll likely burn around 500 total calories. Sounds good, right?
But if 10,000 steps sounds unattainable given your current step count, take it in small increments. If you’re currently getting 3,000 steps each day, aim to increase your total to 5,000 in the next couple weeks. From there, you can gradually build up to more steps in your day throughout the year.
Don’t have a pedometer or fitness tracker? That’s totally OK! Instead of focusing specifically on the number of steps, instead find times during your day where you can add in more walking.
While that can take the form of an actual walk on your lunch break or after dinner, you can also simply take advantage of the times during your day where you’re already up and moving. When you head to the restroom, take a few laps around the office or go up and down the stairs several times. When you park your car at the store, park further away and walk. If you need to run something by a coworker, see if you can walk over to his or her office and chat instead of talking on the phone. Or make your next meeting a “walking” meeting where you walk together as you tackle a project or discussion.
Those added moments of walking may seem small, but they will make a big impact.
Getting started on those healthy resolutions? A checkup with your doctor is a good first step. FIND A DOCTOR HERE.